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Research Shows Little Consistency in ‘Rules of the Road’ for Micromobility Devices

A new study indicates that cities across the country are defining and regulating personal transportation devices in very different ways.
June 26, 2019, 7am PDT | Camille Fink
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Portland Bureau of Transportation

In recent years, various micromobility modes have sprung up in cities around the world, along with a flood of news and commentary about scooter safety and regulation, debates about the legalization of micromobility, and who should be responsible for developing policies in this new era of urban mobility.

Much of the coverage looks at incidents and controversies in particular cities. But what are the broader trends in policies and regulations? And is there consistency in the ways that cities are dealing with micromobility? In May, the Mineta Transportation Institute released a report about personal transportation devices—including e-scooters and skateboards—that examines how municipalities are defining PTDs and the regulations they are implementing in their jurisdictions.

"The review of existing regulations in states, cities, and university campuses revealed that PTD users operate in a murky regulatory environment, with rules often poorly defined, contradictory, or altogether absent," conclude researchers Kevin Fang, Asha Weinstein Agrawal, and Ashley M. Hooper. For example, regulation of motorized scooters varies greatly, with some cities requiring riders use them on sidewalks, while others allow them on sidewalks or prohibit them completely.

From a review of the literature and existing regulations and interviews with stakeholders, the researchers recommend that regulatory codes be developed at the state level, though local jurisdictions should have some flexibility and authority to limit use of particular PTDs. In addition, they say that PTDs should be regulated as a class, rather than as individual devices, and that users should be allowed to use both streets and sidewalks under a set of rules that protects all travelers.

Fang and Agrawal discussed the findings of the study during a webinar hosted by the Eno Center for Transportation. The researchers also are making their data files available, which include all the regulatory information and details they collected about PTDs from all 50 states and five U.S. territories, 101 cities, and 20 college campuses.

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Published on Thursday, May 23, 2019 in Mineta Transportation Institute
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