Step 1: Who Regulates

(1) State

States are typically slower than cities or municipalities to regulate but excel at fixing larger statewide issues. For this reason State laws are typically more vague and allow for local municipalities to tackle the details, while the state sets the tone of regulation. Due to the exponential growth of e-scooters in cities, many states have not yet been able to develop regulations and the cities or local municipalities are tasked with deciding whether or not to regulate now or wait for state guidance. If the State does not have any regulations in place specifically for e-scooters cities might choose to look at similar methods of transportation. For instance, a city or State may choose to classify an e-scooter as a motor vehicle or a moped under existing state regulations.

(2) Local

Local municipalities develop specific regulations tailored to their space and are able to fill in any gaps in State regulation. Local municipalities are often able to work quicker to develop regulations due to their smaller size. Some cities have chosen to ban e-scooters outright until regulations can be developed to ensure that the regulations will not be rushed, local law enforcement will not be burdened, and citizens will be informed on the regulations. 

Another method many cities have employed has been to enact a pilot programs as a way for the city to develop policy after doing more research into how the e-scooters affect the market. Atlanta, Chicago and Charlotte are all examples of cities which developed pilot programs in order to observe the impact of the e-scooters and implement the best possible regulations.

(3) Private Market

E-scooter companies may choose to regulate themselves. This “self-regulation” could be developed from an e-scooter vendor itself, or as a separate enterprise existing in the e-scooter industry.

Corporations may choose to develop internal regulations in order to provide high safety standards to combat a bad reputation or to eliminate bad or lazy actors in the field. For example, many companies have programs in place that send helmets to riders at no cost.[1] They are also actively providing tutorials and rider education materials without any legal obligation to do so.[2] If we continue with the safety example, it is noteworthy that despite these companies’ efforts to make the devices safer, they also have lobbied against helmet laws.[3] Why would this inconsistency exist if they care about safety? Because, as Jon-Patrick Allem, assistant professor at the University of Southern California opines, the image of helmets and safety equipment conflicts with the brand image of being “laid-back, fun and liberating.”[4]

San Diego made headlines when a private E-scooter removal business was established that impounded the devices left on private property.[5] The company takes the E-scooters free of charge, and then sells them back to the vendors. Media outlets used the existence of this business to emphasize the extent of the problems San Diego is facing with E-scooter regulation. Be that as it may, it is also an example of the private market fixing the problems it has caused. Furthermore, the taxpayer is not burdened by this solution method. In fact, if business is good, it’s a budget-positive solution for the regulatory authority, who can now tax the e-scooter removal business.


[1] Pyzyk, K., Lime launches $3 million campaign to promote rider responsibility, Smart Cities Dive, November 6, 2018, Accessed April 4, 2019,

[2] Lime Safety, How to Lime,

[3] Kerr, D., Bird goes after helmet laws for electric scooters, CNET, July 16, 2018, Accessed April 4, 2019.

[4] Holley, P., Bird says safety is their top priority, so why is the E-scooter company’s Instagram page nearly devoid of helmets?, Washington Post, December 21, 2018, Accessed April 4, 2019.