- Denver's Department of Public Works (DPW) has issued cease-and-desist orders to dockless scooter companies Lime and Bird, according to The Denver Post and others. DPW says the businesses did not receive permission or permits to operate in the city, the scooters endanger pedestrian safety and the scooters violate a municipal law disallowing the storage of items in public space.
- DPW told the companies to remove all dockless scooters from the public right of way, or else the city will confiscate them. The companies will be able to retrieve confiscated scooters from a city holding facility, but fines likely will be levied.
- The city says it will work on drawing up regulations for dockless operators.
Denver's encounter with dockless scooters was short-lived, with the city taking action just a week after Lime scooters appeared on the streets, and the very same day Bird vehicles appeared.
DPW got pushback from a handful of Twitter users who criticized the city's decision to disallow and confiscate dockless scooters, which many cited as a viable, much-needed mobility option. DPW responded to a number of the tweets, again noting safety concerns and the operators' lack of working with the city before launching operations.
No, @limebike did not work with us on this launch. We were not notified of their plans to deploy in our community today until a couple of days ago. We are concerned about the use, placement, & quantity of these scooters operating on Denver's sidewalks where we see a lot of peds.— Denver Public Works (@DenPublicWorks) May 25, 2018
Denver encourages lots of choices to get folks out of their cars when they can, but we want it to happen in a manner that doesn't infringe on safety & accessibility, which are huge priorities for making Denver a multi modal kind of town.— Denver Public Works (@DenPublicWorks) May 25, 2018
Denver is the latest in a string of cities to experience growing pains when dockless scooters — or bikes — suddenly appeared. San Francisco impounded dozens of scooters before commencing work on dockless scooter regulation. Nashville, TN issued a cease-and-desist order one day after Bird scooters arrived, and Austin, TX also updated an ordinance to address dockless scooters.
The growing list of operator-municipal conflicts illustrates areas where both sides could stand to improve. At this point, cities know these devices are coming and should figure out in advance how to handle them. Likewise, dockless operators know that cities have concerns and should consult with municipalities on successful pilot launches rather than just releasing scooters onto the streets. Although earlier this year the CEO of Bird invited other dockless operators to join him in signing a pledge containing guidelines for operating responsible vehicle-sharing businesses, it appears that didn't take hold because Bird is one of the main businesses getting called out by city leaders.
In the end, local governments and private service operators exist to serve consumers, and consumers end up as the losers during push-and-pull battles between the two entities.