By: Daniel Saylor
With the proliferation of apps in the ‘sharing economy’ each vying for a spot in our lives do we have space for one more? Companies like Bird, Lime, and Spin are betting that the answer is ‘Yes’ when they bring their e-scooters to town. Industry insiders are betting that e-scooters will revolutionize personal transportation but are they just another Segway? When e-scooter companies first hit the scene in 2017, they took an aggressive approach, mirroring how ride-hailing giant Uber or hotel-substitute Airbnb flouted local rules by offering their services in the early 2010s. The result for the e-scooter companies was a mixture of angry bureaucrats, e-scooter bans, and public backlash.
Legislators, confronted with a myriad of safety and aesthetic concerns, are fighting back. Many cities have banned e-scooters outright. Others severely limit their reach. Some cities, still reeling from the rapid proliferation of ride-hailing companies, like Phoenix, Arizona, banned the e-scooters until they could come up with a comprehensive plan for their implementation. How exactly can a city fit e-scooters in with neighborhoods that already have lots of cars and potholes, scarce bike lanes, and many first-time riders? Phoenix is running a pilot program to find out.
The City of Phoenix launched its “E-scooter Pilot Program” on September 16th, 2019 after much deliberation and public input. The six-month pilot program allows e-scooter companies to apply for a permit and deploy rentable shared e-scooters at specific locations within the geographical boundaries of the pilot program. Three vendors were granted permits – Spin, Lime, and Bird. The scooters are then rented through their respective mobile apps. One novel approach the City has taken is the geofencing of certain areas within downtown as no-ride zones. E-scooters cannot operate outside of the boundaries of the pilot program or in no-ride zones. Once rented, e-scooters must be ridden on the street or within bike lanes – they are not allowed on the sidewalk. Once a ride is finished, riders must park the e-scooter in one of 400 designated parking zones in downtown.
City officials will be on the lookout for noncompliance with the parking zones. If an e-scooter is found discarded outside of a designated parking zone, the city will notify the vendor and the vendor has two hours to relocate the e-scooter to a designated parking zone or risk the imposition of a $200 fine. These fines are then passed on to the rider by the apps. To help combat the abandonment of scooters in non-parking zones, the apps require the rider to snap a photo of the scooter in a properly designated zone. Failing to upload the picture, even if the scooter has been parked in one of the designated zones, may result in the rider being fined.
The rollout of e-scooters in Phoenix has been a mixed success. Two of the three vendors removed their e-scooters from Phoenix within a week because they failed to comply with the program’s stringent requirements. Lime has since re-deployed their scooters in Phoenix after demonstrating to the Phoenix Street Transportation Department that the app technology now meets its standards. The success of the pilot program will ultimately be decided by the Phoenix City Council in March. Until then vendors and riders will continue to enjoy e-scooters’ first foray into downtown Phoenix.
 See Megan Dickey, Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden to talk scooters, unit economics and a multi-billion-dollar valuation at Disrupt SF, TechCrunch (Sept. 25, 2019), https://techcrunch.com/2019/09/25/bird-ceo-travis-vanderzanden-to-talk-scooters-unit-economics-and-multibillion-dollar-valuation/
 See Adam Hartung, The Reason Why Google Glass, Amazon Fire Phone and Segway All Failed, Forbes (Feb. 12, 2015), https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamhartung/2015/02/12/the-reason-why-google-glass-amazon-firephone-and-segway-all-failed/#7c6325dbc05c
 See generally Elise Furlan, In Cities Outside Portalnd, Scooters Were Banned, Thrown in the Ocean or Smeared With Poop. They Kept Going., Willamette Week (Aug. 21, 2018), https://www.wweek.com/news/2018/08/21/in-cities-outside-portland-scooters-were-banned-thrown-in-the-ocean-or-smeared-with-poop-they-kept-going/,
 See generally Laura Newberry, Must Reads: Fed-up locals are setting electric scooters on fire and burying them at sea, Los Angeles Times (Aug. 10, 2018), https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-bird-scooter-vandalism-20180809-story.html (“[E-scooters] have been crammed into toilets, tossed off balconies and set on fire.”);
 See Andrew Hawkins, Nashville is banning electric scooters after a man was killed, The Verge (Jun. 21, 2019), https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/21/18701299/nashville-electric-scooter-ban-man-killed, Daniel Castro, E-Scooter Bans Show Cities Are Hesitant to Embrace Innovation, GovTech (Mar. 2019), https://www.govtech.com/opinion/E-Scooter-Bans-Show-Cities-Are-Hesitant-to-Embrace-Innovation.html
 See generally Zachary Heinselman et al., Scooter Wars: Local Approaches to Regulating Shared Mobility Devices, League of California Cities (May 9, 2019), https://www.cacities.org/Resources-Documents/Member-Engagement/Professional-Departments/City-Attorneys/Library/2019/Spring-2019/5-2019-Spring;-Heinselman-Scooter-Wars-Challenges.aspx
 Jen Fifield, Electric scooters are technically already banned from Phoenix-area sidewalks. Remember go-peds in the ’90s?, AZCentral (Feb. 5, 2019), https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2019/02/05/laws-90-s-allow-arizona-cities-ban-electric-scooters-gopeds/2738769002/
 Phoenix, Arizona, Municipal Code § 31-80(b)
 E-Scooter Vendor Information, City of Phoenix, https://www.phoenix.gov/streetssite/Pages/E-Scooter-Vendor-Information.aspx
 Phoenix, Arizona, Municipal Code § 36-304
 Phoenix, Arizona, Municipal Code § 36-305
 Phoenix, Arizona, Municipal Code § 36-305(E)
 Steven Hsieh, Lime and Bird Are Already Breaking Phoenix’s E-Scooter Rules, Phoenix New Times (Sep. 18, 2019), https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/lime-and-bird-are-already-breaking-phoenixs-e-scooter-rules-11359970
 Steven Hsieh, Lime and Bird Pull Scooters From Downtown Phoenix After Breaking Rules, Phoenix New Times (Sep. 23, 2019), https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/lime-bird-scooters-downtown-phoenix-parking-geofencing-11362302
 Steven Hsieh, After Complying With City Rules, Lime Scooters Will Return to Downtown Phoenix, Phoenix New Times (Sep. 25, 2019), https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/lime-bird-spin-scooters-phoenix-rules-parking-sidewalks-11363565