Shared Micromobility Toolkit: Curb and Enforcement Policies and Approaches
Written by Susan Shaheen and Adam Cohen
Recently, shared micromobility has gained prominence due to enabling technologies (e.g., docking stations, GPS, e-bikes, e-scooters, etc.) that support bikesharing and scooter sharing.
Shared Micromobility — the shared use of a bicycle, scooter, or other low-speed mode — is an innovative transportation strategy that enables shared use on a short-term, as-needed basis. Micromobility includes various service models and modes that meet the diverse needs of travelers including: station-based bikesharing (a bicycle picked-up from and returned to any station or kiosk) and dockless bikesharing and scooter sharing (a bicycle or scooter picked up and returned to any location).
Micromobility has the potential to offer communities an array of potential benefits such as: improved mobility, greater environmental awareness, and increased use of active transportation and non-automotive modes. Micromobility also has the potential to enhance accessibility and quality of life.
However, as the number of operators and devices continue to grow, cities are developing curb and parking policies to better allocate space for bikesharing and scooter sharing.
Some common elements of micromobility curb space policy include:
· Device Caps: Caps that limit the number of bicycles, scooters, or other devices that can be used for micromobility. Public agencies may limit the number devices in a category (e.g., dockless bikesharing, standing electric scooter sharing, etc.) or the number of devices per operator. However, establishing device caps can be difficult for public agencies and operators because the number of devices needed to create an adequate network varies based on a number of factors such as: service area, built environment, density, and usage frequency. Caps can also have unintended consequences of constraining demand or the size of service areas.
· Service Area Limitations: Some cities have service area limitations that can include permissible and prohibited operational areas, which may be enforced through virtual geographic boundaries (commonly referred to as a geofence) using GPS, RFID, or other technologies.
· Designated Parking Areas: A number of cities have created designated parking areas for micromobility. This can include where to park a device on the curb, a requirement to lock or attach a device to a bicycle rack or other piece of street furniture, or a condition to return a device to a designated station or corral (a painted or barricaded parking location for micromobility devices).
· Fees: Some cities charge operators a variety of fees for allowing the placement of micromobility devices in the public rights-of-way. These fees can include: per trip taxes, application fees, and annual fees based on the number of devices placed in the public rights-of-way. Some fees may be reserved for program administration, enforcement, infrastructure improvements, and access enhancements for underserved communities.
· Equipment and Operational Requirements: A number of cities have established equipment requirements (such as maximum allowable operational speeds) and permissible areas of operation such as: prohibitions from operating devices on sidewalks, bicycle lanes, pedestrian malls, etc.
Cities may establish additional policies specific to enforcement (e.g., impounding improperly parked equipment); data sharing requirements; and equity (e.g., policies ensuring Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and low-income access). In Seattle, the city’s department of transportation has established curb space design and management guidelines defining three key zones:
· Frontage Zone = Area between the property line and pedestrian clear zone.
· Pedestrian Clear Zone = Area of the sidewalk corridor that is specifically reserved for pedestrian travel.
· The Landscape/Furniture Zone = Area between the roadway curb face and the front edge of the pedestrian clear zone. This zone buffers pedestrians from the adjacent roadway and is the appropriate location for street furniture, art, street trees, and vegetation.
Seattle’s Curb Space Zones
These three zones define Seattle’s dockless bikesharing parking policy. Seattle’s policy requires that dockless bikesharing users and service providers: 1) Park a bicycle in any landscaping/furniture zone of the sidewalk that is more than three feet wide; 2) Lock devices to a bicycle rack (as long as they do not block pedestrian access); or 3) Park bicycles in designated parking zones (sometimes referred to as corrals — these are painted areas approximately the size of a vehicle parking space designated for micromobility parking). Seattle does not allow dockless bikes to be parked in a way that blocks corners, driveways, curb ramps, buildings, benches, parking pay stations, bus stops, or fire hydrants.
Santa Monica’s Scooter Corrals
Even the best curb space management policies may not prevent issues from arising. Community outreach can play an important role in expanding shared micromobility and ensuring ADA access. For example, the placement of micromobility equipment in the public rights-of-way can present notable challenges for people with disabilities when bicycles or scooters block curb or ramp access. Education, outreach, and proactive enforcement are critical to ensuring devices do not block wheelchair accessibility.
How Micromobility Devices Can Block ADA Access
Over the past decade, shared micromobility continues to grow and develop across the globe. Developing policies to manage multimodal curb access or “complete curbs” is critical to ensuring access for an increasing number of modes and users. A range of policy approaches, pilot testing, and best practices are needed to balance public and commercial interests and to maximize the social and environmental benefits of the evolving ecosystem of shared mobility services, including micromobility.
For more information on shared micromobility policy, please refer to the Shared Micromobility Policy Toolkit: Docked and Dockless Bike and Scooter Sharing recently authored by Susan Shaheen and Adam Cohen.