Atlanta pauses scooter permits after deaths

The city had come under pressure from activists in recent days who had protested on Atlanta's streets after a man riding a scooter was run over by a transit bus.
Image: electric scooters Atlanta
James Wilson lines up electric scooters on a street corner after charging them overnight in Atlanta, on June 28, 2019.David Goldman / AP file

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By Jason Abbruzzese

Atlanta's mayor put a pause on the city's issuance of permits for smartphone-based electric scooter rentals Thursday following two recent deaths.

The city had come under pressure from activists in recent days who had protested on Atlanta's streets after a man riding a scooter was run over by a transit bus.

The executive order from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms stops short of removing scooters from the city's streets.

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“Across the nation, municipalities are dealing with the sudden and unforeseen impact these devices have had on our communities," Bottoms said in a press release.

"While some municipalities have banned the devices altogether, the City of Atlanta acted in good faith to work with the private sector to explore innovative solutions to ease existing commuting strains, said Bottoms. "However, as Atlanta has seen two scooter related deaths, this complex issue requires a more thorough and robust dialogue."

Bottoms also plans to introduce legislation at an upcoming city council meeting to address the impact of scooters on the city.

Like many U.S. cities, Atlanta is trying to figure out how to deal with the sudden appearance of startups that offer dockless, electric scooters that are rentable via smartphones. After starting out on the West Coast in late 2017, scooter startups have quickly spread across the U.S. and around the world. Scooter startups first landed in Atlanta in May 2018.

As consumers quickly adopted the new services — scooters accounted for almost 39 million trips in 2018, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials — safety concerns quickly followed. While data on scooter-related injuries is incomplete, emergency room doctors who spoke with NBC News said that they began seeing people hurt while riding scooters shortly after they began to roll out.

Other cities have also taken steps to rein in scooters. San Francisco regulates how many scooters can operate in its city, while many cities now require permits before companies can drop scooters onto streets.

CORRECTION (July 25, 2019, 2:55 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the bus that was involved in a recent scooter-related fatality. It was a transit bus from a neighboring county, not a city bus.