Boston City Council Approves Electric Scooters


The Boston City Council has approved a measure that will allow scooters and other forms of mini-mobility transit. The ordinance sets up a licensing structure for the vehicles so that the city can keep tabs on how many scooters are on the street.

“We’ve seen other cities have tremendously successful rollouts of micro-mobility, particularly electric scooters. We’ve seen others that had some fits and starts from the beginning, so we’re going to do it right. We’re going to do it the Boston way,” said Councilor Matt O’Malley, a vocal supporter of scooters.

O’Malley says that if scooter regulation is done right they can help get more cars off the road, lower the city’s greenhouse emissions and open up a new revenue stream.

The ordinance also sets up an advisory committee which will include the Office of New Urban Mechanics, the Disability Commission, a member of the City Council, and the Environment Department.

Boston’s decision to open up as a ride zone for scooters adds a significant market for scooter companies. Areas surrounding Boston including Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville have allowed scooters but rollout has been rocky. Local authorities have had to deal with a sudden influx of scooters cluttering city streets and creating hazards. That’s led to scooter services being banned.

Brookline’s scooter program is a pilot project that will run through the summer and be evaluated in November. Town officials are working on licensing and permitting as well as ensuring that scooters aren’t being ridden on sidewalks or creating street hazards.

The issues in Massachusetts mirror those happening throughout the country. Scooters are available in several states including California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas and elsewhere. However, they are governed by a patchwork of local regulations and are often met with a fair bit of local criticism especially when scooter riders take to the sidewalks or other crowded areas.

According to a Washington Post account, 70 bills related to e-scooters have been introduced in 29 state legislatures in recent months, as policymakers work on ways to manage docking, charging, riding and licensing. The big issue, however, is safety. It’s a little too early to have comprehensive user data on scooters but the early picture shows that people have suffered injuries as a result of scooters. Policymakers will be working through how best to regulate that aspect and it could end up meaning age limits, helmet requirements and other measures to ensure that riders and pedestrians can get along together.