MICROMOBILITY — Preface to a Model Legal Code and Best Practices
The ultimate goal of this project is to produce model legislative codes, policy guidelines, and related recommendations for lawmakers, planners, and administrative bodies that manage micromobility. Ideally, the document would allow for a dynamic approach to regulating micromobility considering traditional transportation and planning priorities while enabling new technologies and business models. Accordingly, this document will not be entirely prescriptive.
PROPOSED CORE PRINCIPLES:
1) Cities and localities should be given the maximum legal authority and flexibility to regulate micromobility and experiment with mobility solutions, both public and private. To the extent states legislate micromobility (e.g. mandatory helmet laws, commercial delivery), these statutes should have an opt-out for large cities (minimum population).
As a general rule, federal agencies should restrict regulation to hardware requirements central to basic functionality, and implementation of safety recalls and consumer advocacy programs.
2) Urban traffic should prioritize the movement and safety of users as follows:
(1) Pedestrians; (2) human scale vehicles driven primarily by human power (i.e. bicycles); (3) light-weight electric vehicles for personal/commuter use; (4) other human-scale electric vehicles (commercial).
3) Traditional bike/micromobility lanes shall have a speed limit of 20mph and be restricted to vehicles with a maximum weight limit. Commercial/delivery vehicles will have separate requirements. Gas powered vehicles shall be prohibited from the bike lane and sidewalk.
4) Where bicycle paths are unsafe or in disrepair, micromobility vehicles shall be permitted on sidewalks (exempting central business districts and other high pedestrian traffic areas where appropriate). Micromobility vehicle use on sidewalks shall be restricted to human power only where possible, be limited to a speed limit of 5mph, and yield to pedestrians in all cases. Minors (under 16 yrs) are always permitted on sidewalks unless certain vehicles are specifically exempt.
5) Automobile speed limits should correlate to the type of bike lane, i.e. roads with unprotected bike lanes should have a maximum speed of 30mph. Similarly, roads should be designed to reduce automobile speeds where unprotected bike lanes are present. Don’t just share the road, share the responsibility.
6) States should resist regulation of specific unique modalities where possible and group vehicles based on function e.g. “lightweight 2–3 wheel vehicles”. Previously enacted state laws regulating specific vehicles (e.g. Segways) should be repealed.
7) To the extent quasi-legal mechanisms like temporary public-private pilots are implemented by executive/mayoral fiat or using administrative shortcuts, these programs should carry a limited and definite term (1 year maximum). Long term programs should be approved by a larger (preferably legislative or expert administrative body) and enforced through traditional processes.
8) Where possible, cities should regulate micromobility holistically without reference to specific parameters. For example, bike paths shall have a speed limit of ___mph and shall only be used by two and three wheel vehicles which do not exceed a maximum weight of ____ and/or a maximum horsepower of ____.
Scenario 1 - City A is a mid-sized city that runs its own bikeshare program through a traditional vendor supply contract which is exclusive for bicycles; the vendor contract is unclear if this includes electric bicycles. The current bikes bear the name of the city and the bike provider with no sponsorship.
A multi-modal service provider ANNEX has just entered the City with dockless electric scooters, dockless electric bicycles, and mopeds. City A’s existing bikeshare program ends at the end of the calendar year (in 6 months) and is insufficient to serve the cities travel needs. City A does not want to run its own bike/scooter share but wants more control and ownership than is afforded by a franchise agreement (which is what ANNEX is ultimately seeking). At a minimum, City A wants to control all dock locations, sponsorship rights, and caps but does not want to pay for any services and wants liability liability.
City A also has an ‘Idaho Stop’ rule for bicycles. But it wants to limit that law to bikes and pedelecs and exclude all other motorized vehicles regardless of speed.
Scenario 2— City B (quasi-urban) is approached by company BUZZZ that wants to deploy dockless throttle-only ‘bikes’. City B is car-centric and has no urban downtown (but still lots of commercial activity, mini-malls, etc.) BUZZZ has already deployed in an adjacent city and a joint city agreement is ideal.
The state has a law that requires helmet use and registration for all ‘mopeds’ of which this qualifies. The adjacent city has ignored these requirements in its Memorandum of Understanding and left any issues to be resolved by the company. Many places in City B have no bikelanes and sidewalks have limited pedestrian traffic. The state law permits bicycles on sidewalks. But the city is concerned about extending this right to the throttle bikes. But is also concerned about requiring them to be ridden on roads with speed limits of up to 45mph.
Scenario 3— City C is updating its Bicycle Master Plan (for pedestrians and non-motorized transport). The city is considering incorporating provisions for low-speed motorized vehicles. Among the ideas under consideration is the creation of high-speed ‘bike’ lanes across several major arterials with minimum and maximum speed requirements.
City C is currently structured so that legislature has control over the budgetary/funding process for bikeshare programs. But the mayor has absolute power to manage these programs (and therefore all dockless programs that require no public moneys). The legislature wants to establish a mechanisms for oversight/influence regarding all mobility licenses/programs. They are also drafting a safe-passing law that would penalize motorists passing bicycles and do not know if electric-vehicle like bikes and scooters and mopeds should be included.
Scenario 4— City D is surrounded by numerous public parks with bike trails. The city has been approached by a non-profit company EK-WITTY that focuses on extending commuter vehicles and for low-income users. The city is concerned that the electric bikes may not be safe on the bike trails and may be a nuisance to other park users. The city is also very concerned that the ‘recreational use’ defense, which is typically relies on to shield it from liability on bike trails, may not be applicable to these new vehicles which have been marketed by Ek-Witty as ‘utility and commuter modals’.
Some of the public parks are shared with other municipalities. If the city implements a long-term agreement, it would propose an inter-city agreement. However, it first wants to experiment with a 90-day pilot and would like an informal agreement or waiver from the other cities if possible.
Scenario 5— City E currently has an ‘exclusive’ franchise agreement with a bikeshare operator for traditional bikes. The city is approached by a Company BLITZ that offers dockless electric scooters and bicycles proposing a 90-day pilot program. BLITZ has offered to bring in semi-permanent docks and kiosks as parking (a major concern for the cities older constituents). The city charter requires any permanent structures that impedes the public right-of-way be approved by an administrative body following a public hearing. A hearing would take several months to implement and the private licensing agreement with BLITZ can otherwise be approved on an expedited basis.
City E also has concerns about sponsors for BLITZ. BLITZ currently has an exclusive sponsorship for all bikes and docks. But that sponsor is not popular in the community based on the sponsors brand and its ‘politics’. City E has a general clause with its current bikeshare operator allowing sponsors to be vetted. But the city has never exercised that right previously.
Scenario 6— City F (population 200K, urban) is approached by a delivery service (FOOD-E) that uses pedelec style cargo bikes and with a trailer. FOOD-E markets especially to local farms, grocers, and companies/restaurant that have catering and medium-sized delivery needs. City F wants to keep the service to certain major roads where possible. City F also has an old civil ordinance banning commercial bicycles from bike lanes which was originally intended to exclude gas-powered electric bikes.
City F is also concerned about its exposure to liability given that its bike lanes (which are not well-maintained) may damage the commercial bikes trailers. City F wants to pass a measure which excepts it from liability related to the new service. City F has no specific provisions regulating the width of vehicles used in the bike path but acknowledges that the trailers will not comfortably be integrated into the shared bike paths that cover much of the downtown area.
NEXT STEPS: The objective is to crowdsource a draft of a Micromobility Best Practices document that is compatible with current bicycle and city planning materials. The primary focus will be Who? What? Where? and When? each vehicle/rider should be permitted. The core focus of the regulations will relate to the standard infrastructure trifecta — i.e. sidewalks, bikelanes, and roads. The goal is to adapt laws and regulations new modes and basic infrastructure needs (e.g. docks) without having to constantly update statutes and administrative rules. Other transformative planning ideas (e.g. proposals for cities to ban cars in urban cores) and advanced legal issues relating to insurance, taxation, and privacy are outside this scope of this document.
Basic consideration should include:
· Wheels: 1 vs. 2 vs. 3 vs. 4
· Power source: Human vs. Electric vs. Gas vs. Other
· Type of Use: Personal vs. Commercial vs. Sporting
· Level of government: Federal vs. State vs. City
· Area of operation: Urban (central business district) vs. Urban residential vs. Suburban vs. Rural vs. other (public park, bike-only trails)
· Equipment type: seats, pedals, floorboards,
· Riding style: sitting vs. standing vs. other
· Vehicle Restrictions: speed, weight, height, length, total Power, other
· Age and related issues: Minors vs. Adults vs. Eldery/disabled
· Other equipment requirements — e,g, lights, reflectors for nighttime riding
· Identification requirements — e.g. license plates, VINs, QR Codes, beacons, other
· Licensing requirements — licenses/permits for commuter or commercial vehicles
· Civil/Criminal Penalties — e.g. impaired/distracted riding, other reckless/careless driving, theft/malicious destruction, etc.are outside this scope of this document.