By: Leah LaCivita
As with 2018, this year the Washington State Legislature addressed a popular micro-mobile transportation device. In 2018 legislation passed classifying three levels of electric assist (e-assist) bikes, and this year, the legislature updated state regulations regarding “motorized foot scooters,” more commonly known as e-scooters, in ESHB 1772.
Updating State Regulations
a device with no more than two ten-inch or smaller diameter wheels that has handlebars, is designed to be stood upon by the operator, and is powered by an internal combustion engine or electric motor that is capable of propelling the device with or without human propulsion at a speed no more than twenty miles per hour on level ground.
State law allows motorized foot scooters to be operated on the road or a shared-use path or in a dedicated bike lane, just like bicycles. However, while state law did not specifically prohibit bikes from being ridden on a sidewalk (except in a central business district), motorized foot scooters had been prohibited until now. While not overturning this prohibition, ESHB 1772 now allows motorized foot scooters (and Class 3 e-bikes) to ride on a sidewalk in two instances:
- if authorized by a local ordinance, or
- if “there is no alternative…to travel over a sidewalk as part of a bicycle or pedestrian path.”
Further, while ESHB 1772 restricts the speed of scooters on roads and bike lanes to 15 miles per hour statewide, the bill also authorizes local jurisdictions to set maximum motorized foot scooter speed limits for sidewalks and pedestrian and bicycle trails if that jurisdiction has authorized the use of e-scooters in these areas.
ESHB 1772 also amends RCW 46.04.336 in several ways:
- It prohibits individuals under the age of 16 years from operating a motorized foot scooter unless permitted by a local jurisdiction.
- It permits e-bicycles and e-scooters to park as bicycles are permitted to park and removes the limitation that penalties charged for e-scooter moving and/or parking violations may not exceed those charged for the same violations when committee by a bicyclist.
- It mandates that scooter share programs carry commercial general liability insurance coverage with a limit of at least $1 million for each occurrence and $5 million in the aggregate, and automobile liability insurance coverage with a combined single limit of at least $1 million.
ESHB 1772 also includes among the list of methods that local authorities can use to regulate the operation of e-scooters: The determination of whether shared e-scooters may be operated within the jurisdiction, and if so, where; as well as reasonable fees and taxes that a jurisdiction may require bike share operators to pay.
Preparing for a Growing Industry
In addressing e-scooters, the legislature is likely hoping to give local governments some power in regulating a fast-growing industry. A 2018 report from the National Association of City Transportation Officials illustrates how quickly e-scooters use has grown over a short time, from being virtually nonexistent in 2017 to having more than 85,000 e-scooters available nationwide in 2018.
The report also notes that while the e-scooters are more expensive to rent (roughly $3.50/hr as opposed to $2.50/hr for an e-bike), their ease of use is making them more popular with users. Bike share companies like Lime, Uber, Spin, and Bird have taken note and are pushing hard for e-scooter inclusion in markets that already host bike shares, such as Seattle. And, with the rise of the e-scooter has been drop in emphasis on e-bikes and the outright disappearance of manually operated bikes from bike share programs. In 2018, ridership on e-scooters surpassed that on e-bikes nationally.
To read more, including local laws and about bike and scooter share, click here.
The above is aggregated content from the MRSC Blog. The Auburn Examiner has not independently verified its contents.