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.