Pittsburgh Approves E-Scooter Ordinance

By Nathan Polacek, Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

On July 9th, 2021, the City of Pittsburgh launched an electric scooter partnership with Spin, a unit of Ford Motor Company, to provide easily accessible, app-based e-scooters throughout the city.[1]  Since the launch, these e-scooters have been popping up all over the city; on streets, sidewalks, even people’s yards. Recently in August, two riders even took their e-scooter into the Liberty Tunnel, drawing the attention of Pittsburgh’s mayor and city council.[2] In seven weeks since the pilot program’s launch, there have about 600 complaints made to the city Department of Mobility and Infrastructure with between 1,500 and 4,300 scooter trips per day.[3] These violations of the program and Spin’s terms of service have prompted the city council to propose two ordinances that would apply fines to violations that the city has authority to regulate and restrict the use of e-scooters to only that of Pittsburgh’s authorized vendor, Spin.[4] The ordinances were passed unanimously by the city councilmembers, with one absence, at the September 21st meeting of council.

The ordinance applies Pennsylvania Vehicle Code governing the operation of low-speed electric scooters and dictates that any violation of the ordinance would result in fines “[N]ot more than three hundred dollars ($300.00) and costs for each offense, and in default of payment thereof may be imprisoned for not more than thirty (30) days.”[5] The language of the ordinance requires that “[U]sers of the low-speed vehicles ridden while standing must be at least 18 years old, must not travel faster than 15 mph, and must only ride on streets with designated ‘pedacycle’ lanes, or on streets with a maximum posted speed of 25 mph.”[6]  The ordinance also provides parking regulations for where e-scooters can be left in order to address the most common complaint, scooters being parked illegally on sidewalks and on roadsides.[7]  The other e-scooter ordinance passed that evening authorized the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure to enter into a subsequent agreement with Spin for the e-scooter pilot program, securing its status as the only allowed e-scooters in the city.[8] It is not likely to see any Bird or other scooters popping up all over the city anytime soon, but hopefully we will see all those Spin scooters parked courteously instead of strewn on the sidewalks and taking on the tunnels.

The new regulations being applied will hopefully cut down on complaints and conflicts between pedestrians and drivers and scooter riders.  At the end of the day, it comes down to scooter riders acting responsibly and the new ordinance will penalize those who abuse this novel approach to getting around the city.  Additionally, these scooters are vital to providing a low-cost alternative to public transportation for low-income communities.  Pittsburgh’s Mayor Peduto was quoted by WTAE saying for scooter riders, ” ‘It comes down to individual responsibility’ ” and that Spin has been a good partner in assuring safe rides and keeping track of those that behave unsafely.[9]  Additionally, violators face repercussions from Spin for violating the terms of service and could be fined $10 for their second warning, $25 and a safety class for their third warning, and could be suspended indefinitely after their fourth warning.[10]

[1] https://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/editorials/2021/09/14/Rules-of-the-road-for-electric-scooters/stories/202109100033.

[2] https://www.wtae.com/article/scooter-spotted-inside-liberty-tunnel-in-pittsburgh/37388712.

[3]  https://www.post-gazette.com/news/transportation/2021/08/27/Scooter-Craze-Spin-pilot-program-growth-Pittsburgh-complaints-tunnels-neighborhoods-rules/stories/202108270112.

[4] City of Pittsburgh, Pa., Ordinance 2021-1826 (Sept. 21, 2021); City of Pittsburgh, Pa., Ordinance 2021-1827 (Sept. 21, 2021).

[5] City of Pittsburgh, Pa., Pittsburgh Code § 101.09 (2021).

[6] https://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-local/2021/09/07/Pittsburgh-to-consider-traffic-rules-for-electric-scooters-Spin/stories/202109070093.

[7] City of Pittsburgh, Pa., Ordinance 2021-1826 (Sept. 21, 2021).

[8] City of Pittsburgh, Pa., Ordinance 2021-1827 (Sept. 21, 2021).

[9] https://www.wtae.com/article/scooter-spotted-inside-liberty-tunnel-in-pittsburgh/37388712.

[10] Id.

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