Geofence Aims To Slow Down E-Scooters, But Some Don’t Think It’s Enough

E-scooters can go up to 15 miles per hour. Geofences on the BeltLine are meant to slow that down.
E-scooters can go up to 15 miles per hour. Geofences on the BeltLine are meant to slow that down.
Credit Roxanne Scott

On a typical summer Friday evening on the Eastside Trail of the BeltLine bikes whiz past walkers.

But Kemberli Sargent, a planner with the Department of City Planning, has a keen eye on scooter users.

“We’re going to do some more monitoring of the different companies to see how they’re complying and how well they’re following the rules,” Sargent says.

The devices can go up to 15 miles per hour, but she’s checking whether the e-scooters automatically slow down to eight miles per hour on this stretch of the BeltLine between Monroe Drive and Dekalb Avenue.

This is done through a geofence, active on evenings, weekends and holidays, that the scooter companies need to adhere to. Sargent didn’t say if she got pushback from the companies, but she says the companies weren’t in love with the idea either.

“Because a lot of users really like to go fast, and they enjoy that movement,” she says.

The move to slow down scooters comes after numerous injuries and complaints. Atlantans have made more than 1.7 million trips on scooters since the city passed an ordinance in January regulating how and where the devices can be used. The city’s planning department also launched #ScootSmart, an awareness campaign that helps scooter riders be safe.

But many complain that scooter regulations don’t do enough to keep residents and riders safe.

Scooter companies have self-reported more than 200 crashes and about 80 injuries to the city since the scooter law passed. Injuries can range from cuts and bruises to facial fractures. In May, a scooter ride was hit and killed by a car on West Lake Avenue.

“We need a time period for us to figure it out. And if we can’t figure it out then we maybe need to ban them,” says Felicia Moore, president of the Atlanta City Council.

She told WABE’s “Closer Look” last month that her office has fielded a lot of complaints about scooters and it’s time to revisit the ordinance.

If a ban is imposed, the city would join a list of metro Atlanta cities that have prohibited the devices, including Smyrna, Marietta, Alpharetta and Norcross.

Resident Henry Griffith, 68, agrees that it’s time to revise the Atlanta ordinance.

“They’re riding on the sidewalks illegally and crowding people off of the sidewalk while they ride,” Griffith says.

And this annoys him. So much so that he created a ‘Scooter Sidewalk Violations’ report.

It’s a spreadsheet with dates, times and scooter violations he observed around North Highland Avenue. All with photo evidence sent to his councilmember.

He’s not against scooters, but he says the safety efforts and the geofence on the BeltLine are not enough.

“We don’t really walk the BeltLine anymore, especially on the weekends, because it’s so full of scooters and pedestrians,” he says. “We just walk on the sidewalk.”

But of course he can’t get away from the scooters there either.

Griffith and others hope there will be an update to the rules that regulate the 10,000 scooters allowed on the streets of Atlanta.