[Mdabs] Second Annapolis Issue

nfbmd nfbmd at earthlink.net
Thu Jan 17 15:59:50 UTC 2019



Subject: Regulating Electric Scooters

To: Members of the Maryland General Assembly
From: Members of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland

Contact: Sharon Maneki, Director of Legislation and Advocacy

National Federation of the Blind of Maryland
9013 Nelson Way
Columbia, MD 21045
Phone: 410-715-9596
Email: nfbmd at earthlink.net <mailto:nfbmd at earthlink.net> 

Date: January 24, 2019


Electric scooters (e-scooters) are a new form of transportation that has
become very popular in cities in Maryland and throughout the nation.
Currently, there are no specific laws in Maryland concerning e-scooters. The
recent proliferation of e-scooters has raised public concerns that require
laws to ensure continued pedestrian safety.  Press reports indicate that
doctors are treating more users and pedestrians for broken bones, dislocated
knees, and other injuries due to e-scooters.  Pedestrians, especially
children, the elderly and the blind, have difficulty getting out of the way
of these scooters  because they are too quiet.


The Maryland General Assembly should enact legislation to regulate
e-scooters to ensure continued pedestrian safety. This legislation should: 

*	Include the definition of e-scooter in the transportation article;
*	Specify where users may ride and park e-scooters; 
*	Require each e-scooter to be nonvisually marked with identification
and contact information, to permit the general public to communicate with
e-scooter companies; 
*	Require e-scooter companies to make their websites and apps
nonvisually accessible so that blind pedestrians can inform them about
e-scooter problems; 
*	Enact a minimum sound standard for e-scooters in operation
consistent with federal law for the protection of all pedestrians including
those who are blind.


E-scooters are an environmentally safe and inexpensive alternative form of
transportation that are readily available to the public. These devices have
two wheels, handlebars, and a floorboard to stand on while riding.  They are
powered by an electric motor, are self-locking and are not connected to a
docking station.  E-scooters are usually rented from ride-share services.
Like other ride-share services, such as Uber and Lyft, e-scooter ride-share
services require a user to simply download an app on his smartphone, open a
map that locates the nearest e-scooter, accept, and pay a fee for the ride.

Pedestrians, including the elderly, children, individuals using wheelchairs
and mobility aids, and the blind, are experiencing significant disruption to
their ability to independently and freely travel through their
neighborhoods.  This is due to the substantial increase of e-scooters and
lack of regulation associated with their use.  

E-scooters are prevalent in a variety of Maryland areas, including
Montgomery County, Prince George's County, and Baltimore City.  The
University of Maryland, College Park plans to begin an electric scooter
program shortly as well.  Other Maryland cities and counties are exploring
the feasibility of incorporating e-scooter programs as a transportation

E-scooters, while inexpensive and environmentally safe, are nonetheless
causing challenges for pedestrians due to a lack of clear-cut regulations.
E-scooter users operate these machines on sidewalks, often weaving in and
out of pedestrian traffic.  This causes all pedestrians, but particularly
the elderly, children, those with mobility challenges, and the blind to have
to swerve quickly and walk defensively to avoid getting hurt.  Though many
e-scooter companies state that riding on sidewalks is not permitted, there
is no specific law prohibiting this and no mechanism to enforce this,
rendering this a preference and not a prohibition.

Moreover, once a user finishes a ride, she may leave the scooter anywhere.
This creates a hazard for all pedestrians, particularly the elderly,
children, individuals with mobility challenges, and the blind.  E-scooters
are often left at or near curb cuts or obstructing disability
entrances/ramps.  They are left in front of the stoops and entrances to
private homes and businesses.  They are left on sidewalks near tree wells,
resulting in the obstruction of already narrow sidewalks.  They are left in
front of bus stops and other public transportation hubs, hindering the
ability of riders to safely access buses, trains, and subways.  They are
left in the middle of sidewalks so that no one can get around them without
having to walk into the street.

In order to notify e-scooter companies of the inappropriate placement or
usage of these devices, users and the public are instructed to contact the
appropriate e-scooter company, provide the offending scooter number, and
make a report via the company's telephone number, website, or smart phone
application.  However, the e-scooters do not have a nonvisual means of
identifying their manufacturer, operating company contact information, or
e-scooter number, resulting in the blind being precluded from the ability to
make such reports.  Moreover, the websites and apps are inaccessible,
further precluding the blind from being able to report misuse of e-scooters.

E-scooters make little or no sound when in operation because they run on
electric power.  This is problematic for pedestrians who rely on sound to
safely and independently travel.  E-scooters should be required to maintain
a minimum level of sound, similar to hybrid and electric automobiles, as
mandated by federal law.


The proposed legislation will:

*	Ensure that the law is updated to include a clear definition of
e-scooters, an emerging and prevalent mode of transportation, which will
eliminate confusion about how to categorize these devices;
*	Establish a state-wide standard to be uniformly applied related to
where users may ride e-scooters, including prohibiting riding on sidewalks,
in order to ensure the safety and continued independent travel of
pedestrians.  These standards will provide clarity to users, the public, and
law enforcement personnel, where none exists;
*	Establish a state-wide standard to be uniformly applied related to
where users may park e-scooters in order to ensure the safety and continued
independent travel of pedestrians;  These standards must be specific and
non-subjective.  Creating such standards will ensure that pedestrians do not
have to climb over, squeeze by, bump into, knock over, or be forced to
relocate e-scooters.  This is particularly important for those without the
physical means to do so;
*	Ensure that the blind and others may independently identify the
e-scooter model, e-scooter company contact information, and e-scooter number
located on the device in a nonvisual manner in order to communicate with
e-scooter companies when devices have been improperly used.  Such tactile
markings are inexpensive and will ensure that the blind have access to the
same information about e-scooters as sighted Marylanders have; 
*	Require that e-scooter company apps and websites be nonvisually
accessible in order for the blind and others to communicate with e-scooter
companies when devices have been improperly used.  Nonvisual access makes
the website and apps more user friendly for all;
*	Require a minimum sound standard for e-scooters so that pedestrians
can hear them approaching and continue to travel safely and independently.


E-scooters are a fairly new form of transportation, but they are flooding
the state.  Maryland needs state-wide, uniform legislation to regulate
e-scooters.  The time to enact real and meaningful legislation is now. 

The proposed legislation is necessary to ensure that pedestrians are able to
continue to travel safely and independently.  The best way to protect
pedestrians is to require a minimum sound standard when the scooter is in
operation.  This legislation must define e-scooters and determine where
users should operate and park them.  This law must ensure that all members
of the public, including the blind, have equal access to information in
order to communicate with the company and law enforcement.  With these
provisions in place, all members of society, users and the public, can come
to appreciate e-scooters.  





Sharon Maneki, Director of Legislation and Advocacy

National Federation of the Blind of Maryland



The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland knows that blindness is not
the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the
expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles
between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want;
blindness is not what holds you back.



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