Spin, Lime, Bird, and Superpedestrian partner to share best practices for regulating e-scooters and e-bikes in North American cities
Brit Moller, Head of Public Policy - SPIN
May 17, 2023
May 16, 2023 – Earlier this week at the National Association of City TransportationOfficials (NACTO) conference in Denver, we joined our fellow shared e-scooter operators Lime, Bird, and Superpedestrian in unveiling a set of ten recommendations to help North American cities better integrate shared e-bikes and e-scooters onto their streets.
Shared e-bikes and e-scooters continue to reshape how people move in cities, providing safe, convenient, and affordable options for residents and visitors to travel more sustainably. These services offer some of the most successful alternatives to personal car use in recent years.
As the shared e-bike and e-scooter industry matures, we’re glad to stand alongside our counterparts to put forward what we’ve found to be the most successful regulatory measures to keep micromobility programs safe, organized, and sustainable over the long-term.
The recommendations come as cities in North America increasingly move from pilots to full-scale shared e-scooter and e-bike programs. Taken together, they provide a framework for how to successfully set up and manage shared mobility programs to yield positive results for residents and achieve city mobility and sustainability goals. The recommendations aim to further normalize shared e-bike and e-scooter services within city transportation networks and address points of friction that have hampered select programs in the past.
These recommendations reflect our combined experience operating shared electric vehicles in hundreds of cities around the world over the past seven years, while providing hundreds of millions of rides to local travelers.
“In just a short time, shared electric bike and scooter usage has taken off, providing the strongest challenge yet to personal car use in cities,” the CEOs of Bird (Shane Torchiana), Lime (Wayne Ting), Spin (Philip Reinckens) and Superpedestrian (Assaf Biderman) said in a joint statement. “To ensure these options remain a valuable part of city transportation networks, we combined our expertise to develop recommendations to cities that we view as best-practices for regulating micromobility programs. This framework has the potential to greatly improve the experience for riders and non-riders alike, while allowing cities to better manage these services over the long-term. We look forward to working alongside our city partners on implementation so these services can continue to reach more riders in need of safe, affordable, and sustainable transportation options.”
Many leading micromobility programs already implement the recommended practices and can attest to their benefits:
"The City of Chicago has implemented performance-based fleet standards for our shared scooter license program,” said Sean Weidel, Deputy Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation. “Our program rules were crafted to help us meet the City's goals to provide equitable, safe, reliable, and accessible service. Our rules incentivize operator compliance by using these goals as the lens through which we analyze fleet right-sizing and increase requests."
“The City of Saint Paul requires a $0.12 per trip for scooters,” said David Peterson, Senior Transportation Planner for the Saint Paul Department of Public Works. “This fee scales with use of the shared scooter program and helps cover some of the city’s administrative costs for system oversight. Saint Paul is interested in seeing the continued and growing success of shared mobility across Saint Paul, to more neighborhoods and among a greater number of residents.”
Independent third parties also weighed in to support the creation and continued refinement of data-backed regulatory guidelines:
"SUMC supports the development of performance-based regulations, driven by insights from the millions of trips taken on shared bikes and scooters, that can balance city goals with the realities of operating shared micromobility systems," said Benjamin de la Peña, CEO of the Shared-Use Mobility Center. "An important next step in this work is understanding how the metrics proposed in this framework are realized in real-life applications and their implications on creating a sustainable and equitable shared system," he added.
The ten recommendations, focused on program administration and operational regulations can be found here:
1. Appropriate number of operators to avoid over-saturation of a market and provide healthy competition, customer choice, and easy administration for cities.
a. As a general guideline, in markets with>1000 scooters, at least two operators and a maximum of three operators, with the following recommended ratios:
i. 1,000-2,000 scooters in total: maximum of two operators (e.g., Phoenix)
ii. 2,000+ scooters in total: maximum of three operators (e.g., New York, Chicago)
2. Fleet size that balances reliability with tidiness, starting with a manageable initial fleet and growing in line with the success of the program and compliance with city priorities. Below are guidelines, with actual thresholds dependent on market conditions.
a. 1 vehicle per 500 people as an initial baseline. However, special population considerations, such as a large commuter base, seasonal populations wings, and large student populations could require additional vehicles.
b. Fleet growth tied to operator performance based on metrics measuring compliance with city priorities (tidiness, responsiveness, maintenance, etc.).
3. Long-term programs and contracts, allowing riders and operators to rely on micromobility over the long term.
a. A minimum of a two year contract term for pilots and three to four years for permanent programs. These durations provide sufficient time for:
i. operators to ramp up services and invest long-term in the city’s program
ii. the city to evaluate services
iii. the public to gain the long term confidence to depend on micromobility.
4. Fees covering the reasonable and transparent costs of program administration and public space occupancy, consistent with fees paid by similar modes.
a. Unlike almost all other transportation services - including prior bikeshare programs - shared e-scooter operators typically provide services free of charge to cities.
b. Operators also frequently pay fees to offset cities’ costs to administer micromobility programs. To promote transparency, adoption of micromobility, and financially sustainable programs, any fees should:
i. Offset reasonable costs to the city of administering the shared micromobility program, with costs transparently shared with operators and the public.
ii. Be equivalent to fees charged to similar modes, like bikeshare, and a fraction of the per-mile fees charged to modes like ridesharing and cars that emit pollution, contribute to congestion, require higher enforcement and administration costs, and impose greater wear and tear on roads and infrastructure.
iii. Ensure the revenue to the city grows with the program through a per-ride fee.
c. Fees should be set prior to vendor selection and applied consistently across all operators. This avoids negative outcomes such as operators overpromising on financial commitments, legal concerns over excessive fees, and operators winning bids and then withdrawing from the market due to unsustainable fees.
d. Fines should be reasonable, commensurate with the harm caused by the infraction and account for barriers to safe compliance, like insufficient infrastructure.
5. Uniform and automated data sharing through MDS and GBFS protocols, which are designed by and for cities and the most common methods used today.
a. MDS and GBFS facilitate easy and consistent submission of information to cities across operators and easy utilization of data by cities. MDS and GBFS are designed to protect rider privacy by excluding directly identifiable person data, keeping personal information safe and protecting cities from the threat that hackers will gain access to sensitive information.
b. MDS and GBFS are continually updated to ensure cities are getting state of the art data feeds without requiring dedicated city resources.
c. With uniform data sharing requirements, operators are able to spend more time working with cities to provide useful data for monitoring and evaluation, and less resource spent building bespoke data reports.
6. Selection processes designed to identify the operators best suited to provide quality service over the longterm, tailored to a city’s unique needs.
a. In mature markets, competitive public procurement (RFP, tender, etc.) is the method best suited to select the most appropriate vendor to serve a city’s needs. Competitive public procurement also ensures that the program is easily administered by the city and improves accountability for service delivery.
i. License structures and “open market” models are less desirable as they encourage the over-saturation of operators and vehicles and result in poorly managed fleets. The administrative costs of managing an oversaturated scheme are also likely to be higher for a city than in a controlled scheme selected via competitive public procurement.
b. Competitive public procurements should draw on the experience of other procured services and ensure that operators are selected according to the quality of service provision.
i. Operators should never be selected based on financial contribution (“city fees”, “level of investment” or “user pricing”). It creates unsustainable market conditions and should be avoided. This leads to negative outcomes for cities, such as operators overpromising in bids or failing to deliver a quality service because the business is not financially sustainable. In the worst case, operators will abandon markets which are financially unsustainable - leading to service failure or a major gap in provision.
c. Reliability, safety, sustainability, and fleet management should be the core criteria for selecting operators.
i. Where relevant, cities should require evidence of delivery in comparable cities to support claims made by operators in competitive public procurement or application documents.
d. Outcome or performance-based criteria and regulations are preferable to requiring specific technology or operational practices, especially those that are just emerging and may not be applicable to the city’s unique circumstances. (Earl Blumenauer, 2011)
i. Outcome-based and technology-neutral requirements encourage operators to bring their experience and creativity to provide great service and curb negative externalities like antisocial behavior(sidewalk riding, tandem riding, misparking, etc.). This encourages innovation based on local conditions and new practices as they emerge.
ii. Procurement criteria or regulations which specify technological solutions risk limiting innovation, and cities becoming stuck with outdated regulations based on legacy technologies.
7. Operating area and hours that maximize access to destinations throughout the city and for residents working non-standard hours.
a. Operating areas contiguous with the city boundaries are preferable to connect residents and visitors with destinations anywhere across the city.
b. If a whole city operating area is not feasible, operating areas should be contiguous and connect people with the important centers of the city (cultural, business, recreational).
c. Like cars and public transport, micromobility should be available at all times to support use for daily activities and by those who work non standard schedules. (City of Detroit, 2021)
8. Authorized parking conveniently located close to where riders start and end their trips to increase program use, reliability, and tidiness. (Brown et al, 2021)
a. There are many different parking options.Density, existing infrastructure, and pedestrian patterns inform what will be most effective in any given city.
i. Dockless parking is well suited to lower density areas or where parking infrastructure (incl. racks and painted bays) is not sufficiently available,
1. Needs clear rules about safe parking
2. No-parking zones in sensitive or highly pedestrianized areas
ii. Mandatory parking in dedicated, physical parking corrals is well suited to denser urban areas like downtowns. Mandatory corrals require sufficient infrastructure and parking corral density:
1. Minimum of 40 parking corrals/sq.km (roughly one per block)
2. Minimum of 3 parking spaces for each scooter (e.g.,3,000 spaces for, 1,000 vehicles)
iii. Hybrid parking with mandatory parking in dense areas and stationless parking in less dense areas
1. A practical system which corresponds to other comparable urban regulatory schemes, like zoning codes, and accounts for variation among neighborhoods and infrastructure.
9. 15 mph speed limit to ensure the safety of riders.
a. 15 mph vehicle speeds are consistent with other vehicles like bikes or e-bikes, allowing for safer riding that aligns with the pace of traffic. (Arellano and Fang, 2019)
b. Riders are more likely to ride on sidewalks where speed is capped below 15 mph because they feel unsafe mixing with faster vehicles on the roadway.
c. Based on our piloting of technology in many cities and data from third parties and cities, automatic speed reductions or throttling speeds on sidewalks is dangerous, as it forces riders onto unsafe streets and does not increase safety for pedestrians.
10. Helmets should be encouraged but not mandatory.
a. Scientific research shows no reliable correlation between mandatory helmet laws and improved rider safety. (Teschke et al, 2015)
i. Helmets create a false sense of safety among riders, drivers, and the public. Drivers are more likely to drive closer to riders wearing helmets. (Walker, 2007)
ii. Helmets are ineffective in protecting riders from car crashes – the largest cause of severe injuries and fatalities.
iii. There is safety in numbers. Where bikeshare is introduced, the number of people riding bicycles increases, which is associated with a decrease in the absolute number of bicycle accidents. (Fishman and Schepers, 2018) By contrast, mandatory helmet requirements discourage people from using micromobility, including private bicycles, so safety declines.
iv. Riders are reluctant to use shared helmets -particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
b. Helmet-wearing mandates exacerbate existing social inequalities, leading to lower use of micromobility by underrepresented groups and disproportionate impact of enforcement.
i. Lower-income groups may be unable to purchase their own helmets or have limited access to retail outlets selling helmets, and groups that wear cultural or religious headgear are deterred from using micromobility.
All operators part of this multi-operator working group remain competitors, independent of each other in their strategy and decision-making, and strongly abide by applicable competition laws. The sole purpose of this joint effort is to provide the best standards and practices to enhance the customer experience, health and safety, and sustainability of the micromobility industry.
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