Scoot Over: Nashville Unplugs E-Scooters

Nashville Mayor David Briley is scrapping a pilot program for scooters after a scooter-related traffic death last month.

A scooter ban in Nashville could have implications for crackdowns in other cities.
A scooter ban in Nashville could have implications for crackdowns in other cities.

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Baby, meet bathwater: Nashville Mayor David Briley is moving to end his city’s e-scooter program after a scooter rider was killed by a car driver last month.

Briley instructed city lawyers on Friday to draft a bill terminating the e-scooter pilot program, although he said a smaller number of public scooters could return if companies met stringent safety guidelines.

If Nashville’s Metro Council approves the measure, and a ban is gaining support, all 4,150 devices would be removed from city streets within weeks.

“It’s pretty clearly a failed experiment,”Briley told NewsChannel 5. “The way it’s worked out here in Nashville has just not been good for safety of people on the sidewalks, people using them, and it’s really just not worked out.”

The relationship between Nashville officials and scooter companies was rocky from the start.

Two days after Bird introduced 100 e-scooters to Music City in May, 2018, the company received a cease and desist letter from the city for “obstructing the public sidewalk.” City officials pointed to users parking scooters on sidewalks and leaning against trees and illegally riding the devices on sidewalks.

Yet riders argued that bike lanes infrastructure was unsafe and the streets were too dangerous because of speeding vehicles. Two scooter riders were hit by a car within the first month of the pilot program.

Bird temporarily pulled its fleet, set up shop in Memphis, and came back to Nashville later that summer once the city implemented new rules and regulations for riding and parking on sidewalks.

But complaints continued to roll in. The city received 200 online incident notices in the first seven months of the program, and 630 in the first year, largely requesting scooter removal.

Injuries also began to rise. The Nashville Fire Department responded to 43 emergency calls for scooter-related crashes compared to 15 in March, four in February, and 12 in January, according to The Tennessean. The Vanderbilt University Medical Center treats one to two scooter related injuries per day, the Tennessean reported.

Yet a Center for Disease Control study that tracked scooter hospitalizations in Austin found that scooters are generally safe once people figure out how to ride them — a third of riders reported injuries on their very first trip.

The scooter ban comes with an ironic backdrop: cars are far more dangerous to East Tennesseans. In Davidson County, which encompasses Nashville, there were 33,419 traffic crashes last year including 9,146 injuries and 78 fatalities according to the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security. In the first three months of this year, there were 7,859 crashes including 2,145 injuries and 15 deaths, state records show.

One of those fatalities was 26-year-old Brady Gaulke, who was struck by a car while riding a scooter on a downtown street on May 16 and died from his injuries three days later. The driver was not hurt.

Gaulke’s family launched a petition to outlaw scooters in Nashville — and a week later Briley threatened to ban the two-wheeled transit devices unless the companies that own them address problems within 30 days.

“Based on what I have witnessed firsthand, the recent influx of scooters in our city is causing us to be less safe and more visually cluttered,” Briley wrote in a May 23 letter to the transit companies.

Scooter companies including Bird, Lime, and Lyft, responded they would work with the mayor and Metro Council to curb abuses, but urged against an outright ban because it would be detrimental to transit in the region.

Five of the city’s seven scooter companies met with Briley in mid-June and shared 19 recommendations in an open letter including the distribution of free helmets, more safety training, and capping the number of scooters. The seven companies currently each manage between 500 and 1,000 e-scooters on city streets.

But that didn’t placate city officials.

With a ban, Nashville may allow one or two companies to reintroduce a much smaller fleet of scooters in to the city after they receive approval by the Transportation Licensing Commission.

“If these devices return in the future, it will be after a public process, on our terms, with strict oversight for numbers, safety, and accessibility, Briley tweeted.

 

 

13 thoughts on Scoot Over: Nashville Unplugs E-Scooters

  1. ” a third of riders reported injuries on their very first trip.”

    This is an editorial error or an incorrect reading of the report you cite. The report says that one third of scooter injuries are attributed to a first trip.

  2. Nashville should check to see whether any people are being killed by those big scooters with four wheels, a.k.a. cars. If people are being killed by cars then maybe they should also be banned?

  3. Electric scooters may not work well in cities that are exclusively designed for automobiles. But that isn’t a problem with electric scooters – that’s a problem with badly-designed cities. Nashville should have protected lanes where bikes and electric scooters can move safely.

  4. Cars are dangerous, why aren’t they banning those? Why don’t they close one lane of driving or parking on every street? That would fix the problem. The problem isn’t the scooters. The scooters aren’t the failure. The car centric downtown is the failure.

  5. I visited Nashville last week for the first time and tried an e-scooter to get downtown. The problem is clearly the speeding car traffic. I rode down Broadway, which should not be THREE lanes of cars on each side. Half of my ride was on sidewalk, admittedly. Easy fix could be to make one lane a protected bike/scooter lane. Still enjoyed the scooter ride. It was very hot and didn’t want to sweat too much walking.

  6. “The scooter ban comes with an ironic backdrop: cars are far more dangerous to East Tennesseans.”

    True! They’re also more dangerous to people in Middle Tennessee, which is where Nashville is actually located…

  7. It isn’t the scooters but the users…Total lack of respect for the law and pedestrians! As usual, instead of a few hundred scooters, a few thousand were introduced…Nashville can’t police true criminals much less police scooter violations!

  8. As a Nashville resident we can definitely work to provide a better infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians. But that is not the issues with the scooters… it is indeed the user combined with no sort of enforcement. People ride them on sidewalks, even when bike lanes are available, they turn and go the wrong way down one way streets, they ride them the wrong way down bike lanes and rarely obey any traffic laws. I’ve been hit as a pedestrian, without warning.

  9. The concept of dockless scooters is great but many cities are unprepared to accommodate them.

    Ideally, cities need an entire network of protected “slow lanes” to safely accomodate bikes/e-scooters and future sustainable mobility devices.

  10. How about we make scooting on sidewalk legal anywhere is a 2+ lane road without bike lanes.

    I’m sure safety stats will confirm that’s safer overall.

  11. Nashville resident here who lives about a mile from downtown/broadway ave. I’ll admit I was a fan of the scooters when Bird was the only game in town and there were only a couple hundred of them around the city. I like the idea of a clean, inexpensive, “last mile”, commuter option.

    Unfortunately I am now NOT a fan. I do agree that it’s not a device’s fault for people’s misuse but that does not mean that the problems aren’t still valid. And at the end of day, without strict enforcement, I don’t see this misuse improving anytime soon. We already have rising crime rates and fewer officers and frankly they don’t have time to write people citations for riding these things on sidewalks and I don’t want them to. I want them to catch burglars and murderers.

    The real issue with these things is that the vast majority of these scooters are dumping the area of Nashville that is for partying. Some people legitimately use them for short commutes but most of those who are riding them are inebriated tourists joyriding them in one of the most densely congested areas of the city. If they’re on the street, they aren’t obeying traffic laws. If they’re on the sidewalk, they’re running over pedestrians and I’m yet to ever see a single person wearing a helmet even though Bird will send you one for free. It’s just a recipe for disaster. No, those things aren’t scooters’ fault but people aren’t going to act right so the problem is still a problem. I was almost run over by someone on the sidewalk the other day. They came right up on my heels and almost hit me and they go “BEEP BEEP!” I said, “You know those are supposed to be operated on the street.” and this guy responds, “We do know that but we don’t care so deal with it.” You see? This is the mentality of these people. It’s just a free for all.

    On another note, and this is the scooters’ fault, they look like crap. It’s an eyesore seeing these ugly things banged up and laying all over our sidewalks and corners. They’ve had 6 months to a year on them now and they’re decrepit looking. It’s mechanical litter.

    I’m for giving them another chance but fewer of them and I think they should NOT be allowed in the drinking district. That’s not a good idea.

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