STORY BY AARRON FLEMING
Germantown’s Board of Mayor and alderman passed on first reading an ordinance to ban the use of electric scooters in the city at its meeting Monday night.
“Due to the operational nature of On-Demand Dockless Small Vehicle Systems, there is a possibility of the equipment being placed or left on City sidewalks or streets, creating traffic and/or pedestrian hazards,” the proposal for the amendment reads.
The ordinance, which was presented by the city’s assistant director of engineering, Ethan Skaggs, is an amendment to a section of an existing ordinance on streets, sidewalks and other public places in the city.
As written, it prohibits on-demand small vehicle systems and on-demand small vehicle on public rights-of-way and public property. It also bans bikes, scooters, electric bikes and other small vehicles when they are offered for short-term rental and don’t have a dedicated docking station to be returned to after they are done being used.
Although it mentions other types of vehicles outside of them, it’s clear that the amendment is mostly aimed at electric scooters.
“Several municipalities across the state have moved to do so and presented legislation confirming the nuisance and negative impact that electric scooters have to public health and safety,” the proposal reads.
The amendment mostly takes issue with electric scooters that don’t have dedicated places to return them, so the idea is to limit the potential safety hazards that they can cause when they are simply left on city sidewalks.
The amendment does not affect privately owned versions of these vehicles and bike share programs would still be allowed in the city so long as they have dedicated racks to return bikes to, it appears.
One of two recent studies from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed that more electric scooter-related injuries occur when riders use them on the sidewalk.
Both studies were conducted from March through November 2019 and consisted of interviews with 100 electric scooter riders who went to Geroge Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. for injuries that they sustained while riding an electric scooter.
One of the studies concluded that in comparison to bike riders, electric scooter riders were “twice as likely as bicyclists to get injured because of a pothole or crack in the pavement or other infrastructure like a signpost or curb”.
The study also found that nearly 3 out of 5 electric scooters riders got hurt when they were riding on the sidewalk, even if they weren’t supposed to be. A third of those riders got hurt while riding on the sidewalk somewhere that doing so was not allowed.
Only about 1 out of 5 was injured riding in the bike lane, multiuse trail or other off-road location, the study found.
Before becoming official, the amendment will have to pass two more readings.
The next reading, which includes a public hearing, is scheduled for May 9.