Dockless

Dockless Mobility Update

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Update to the update: The Baltimore City Land Use and Transportation Committee unanimously approved moving this bill out of committee and onto Second Reader. Thanks for your support.

Tomorrow at 1:00pm, Baltimore City Council’s Land Use and Transportation Committee is holding a hearing on the proposed Dockless Mobility legislation that will update Baltimore City code to regulate dockless mobility vehicles, including e-bikes and e-scooters.

This legislation is necessary to enable a permanent Dockless Vehicle program in Baltimore City. The current pilot program, now on a several-month extension, will come to an end and be replaced with this legislation and subsequent annual operating permit guidelines developed by Baltimore City Department of Transportation.

When the legislation was initially introduced, we had a number of concerns. A drafting error implied criminal penalties, including potential imprisonment, for riders. The ordinance contained what we felt to be inflexible and overly specific language, including specifics related to age of users, vehicle definitions, and maximum vehicle deployments. However, we were hopeful that these issues could be addressed in subsequent meetings with DOT.

We’re happy to report that the bill will be introduced tomorrow with numerous friendly amendments that address the majority of our serious reservations:

  • Criminal penalties have been removed from the bill for any users of dockless mobility vehicles.

  • The DOT director can define additional dockless mobility vehicle types beyond bikes and scooters, allowing for potential cargo vehicles or vehicles for people with disabilities that make riding a two-wheeled scooter or bicycle difficult.

  • Instead of a defined maximum in ordinance, the DOT director is instructed to set maximum and minimum numbers of vehicles in the annual permit, allowing more flexible change.

  • The 16 year old age restriction for riding e-bikes and e-scooters (which would have applied to personally owned and operated e-bikes and e-scooters as well) has been removed, allowing for potential vehicles that can accommodate child passengers.

  • Prohibition on multiple riders has been removed, allowing for potential tandem vehicles or vehicles that can accommodate child passengers.

  • You may now choose to ride in the street or on the sidewalk adjacent to a street with a speed limit over 29mph (Before, you were forced to ride on the sidewalk on streets with a speed limit over 30mph).

  • Electric motor speed limit of 15mph for e-bikes was restored to 20mph to match state and federal regulations of Tier I and II e-bikes.

In addition to these amendments, key language mandating equitable access to dockless vehicles throughout the city and in under-served areas as well as language around maintaining publicly accessible data remains.

Assuming these amendments, and the ordinance itself are approved by the Land Use and Transportation Committee as well as the rest of Baltimore City Council, we believe this ordinance will serve as a strong foundation for an innovative and nation-leading dockless vehicle permit developed by Baltimore City Department of Transportation that can evolve annually to reflect the changing market of this new mobility option.

While we congratulate Baltimore City DOT on drafting a strong first piece of legislation on dockless mobility, to fully support this program’s success, Baltimore City Department of Transportation will need to invest heavily in building protected, all-ages bicycle infrastructure throughout the city, with a clear prioritization of infrastructure in defined equity areas and areas with high rates of zero car households. We are a long way off from hitting that mark.

Update on Dockless Mobility

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Technically, Baltimore City’s Dockless Vehicle Pilot Program ends on February 28th.

Over the past six months of the pilot program, dockless scooters and bikes have seen 755,952 rides by over 190,000 riders.

In response to the overwhelming ridership in the pilot program, Baltimore City Department of Transportation has worked with the mayor’s office to introduce legislation at City Council to formally authorize a dockless vehicle program. This legislation will authorize the program legally, and then Baltimore City Department of Transportation will create a permitting program for vendors to provide dockless bikes, e-bikes, and scooters.

BCDOT has also formed a committee to provide guidance on the formation of both the ordinance authorizing a dockless vehicle program as well as the subsequent permits that will be issued. As these are public meetings, we have been attending and providing feedback, even though we are not members of the committee.

Proposed Ordinance

You can view the proposed ordinance First Reader draft here.

Generally, we feel that the ordinance should be broad authorizing language that leaves most definitions, discussion of maximum and minimum numbers of vehicles, age limits, etc. to the actual permit.

As drafted, the First Reader misses this mark. However, BCDOT so far has been very responsive to our concerns, and we believe that they can be addressed through meetings with City Council and BCDOT prior to committee hearing, or at Land Use and Transportation Committee hearings or work sessions.

We do know that the largest (and unintentional) gaffe, the criminalization component, is proposed to be amended out of the legislation. The intent of that section was target providers of dockless mobility vehicles with serious penalties for failing to comply with regulations, not users of dockless mobility vehicles.

Proposed Permit Regulations

The Dockless Vehicle Committee, hosted by BCDOT, has been reviewing best practice documents from NACTO as well as policies in cities across North America and Europe for guidance and lessons learned.

We are hopeful that the resulting permit based on this thorough research-based approach will be a foundation for success and innovation, much like the original pilot agreements we worked with BCDOT to develop.

BCDOT is also learning lessons from the pilot, specifically around the equity requirements. The pilot used Community Statistical Areas as the tool to distribute vehicles equitably among neighborhoods, but we saw that these areas were too large to achieve the intended distribution. Therefore, BCDOT is exploring some other ideas including creating designated dockless mobility hubs in equity priority areas, as well as targeting high ridership bus stops and transit hubs for mandated deployments.

We encourage members of the public to contact DOT with any specific things you’ve seen work well in other cities that may be incorporated into a draft permit. Just visit their page here.

Next Steps for the Pilot Program

Since the pilot program technically ends this week, and we have not formalized the replacement program, BCDOT plans to extend the pilot through the spring. New agreements with Bird and Lime will be signed, and BCDOT has agreed to entertain at least one more operator application. We understand that Jump is interested in entering the pilot program in that slot.

BCDOT Dockless Survey

From December to January, BCDOT launched a survey on dockless mobility that was shared widely through community liaisons, council people, the mayor’s office, transportation advocacy organizations, and the Bird and Lime applications. 5,283 people responded in total.

Results are about what one would expect:

  • There is broad support for the program from both riders and non-riders, with highest support from younger residents.

  • Most people use dockless vehicles to commute or socialize, and do so because it is convenient.

  • Dockless vehicle use predominantly replaces automobile trips, and has encouraged slightly more walking.

  • The improvements people want to see the most are safer places to ride and more vehicles.