- An advocate for disability rights is suing the City of Minneapolis and e-scooter companies Bird and Lime over safety and accessibility concerns related to scooters on sidewalks. The plaintiff, Nathan McCourt, has autism and a developmental coordination disorder — which he says affects his reaction times — and repeatedly has tripped over scooters left in public rights-of-way, recently sustaining a large leg bruise.
- The lawsuit says dockless scooters left in sidewalks or other rights-of-way, form barriers that prevent people with visual and mobility impairments from traveling freely, violating state laws and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. It also notes problems with scooter users riding on sidewalks, which they are not supposed to do in Minneapolis.
- The plaintiff seeks an order preventing scooters from operating on sidewalks and rights-of-way, in addition to repayment of money "wrongfully obtained as a result of the Scooter Defendants wrongful and illegal conduct."
This lawsuit mirrors similar action in other cities. Earlier this year, a disability rights group sued the City of San Diego as well as operators Bird, Lime and Razor for e-scooters making sidewalks unsafe with dockless devices. An Austin, TX man filed a lawsuit earlier this year when he tripped over a scooter. Last year, a class action lawsuit filed in Los Angeles accused e-scooter operators of "gross negligence" and "aiding and abetting assault" for not making sure public spaces are cleared of scooter clutter.
A rather curious aspect of the Minneapolis lawsuit is that it includes Bird, which has not operated in Minneapolis since last year. However, it does not name the other current operators in Minneapolis besides Lime: Lyft, Spin and Jump.
The lawsuit says scooter companies suddenly appeared on Minneapolis' streets and "have been allowed to appropriate the public commons for their own profit, regardless of the impact on the City's residents... effectively turning them into their private retail stores, showrooms and storage facilities for their recreational dockless scooters business."
It accuses the city of not adopting or enforcing ordinances to ensure rights-of-way are kept clear of scooters. The complaint said the problem is solvable but the defendants refuse to take the necessary actions.
Minneapolis' scooter-sharing website lists a variety of tools through which it can carry out enforcement. Real-time data-sharing dashboards, public complaints and 311 complaints are named. The site says the city is "taking steps towards the possibility of City staff issuing citations for riding and parking behavior" that violates traffic code, and scooters could be impounded or companies licenses' suspended due to non-compliance. However, the site does not specify if any enforcement or punitive measures actually have occurred.
Most cities where scooters have popped up implemented regulations governing the devices' use and parking and have made it clear that offending companies — and in some cases, device users — can be fined. However, few cities have gone public with instances of levying fines. It can be difficult for citizens to determine if city governments are keeping tabs on mobility companies' adherence to regulations or if the stated enforcement measures are idle threats.
Some cities have been vocal about doling out fines to scooter companies for operating violations, although most of those have been for dropping scooters on city streets without advance permission. Chicago made it well known this summer that it fined seven of the 10 companies participating in its four-month pilot for a variety of violations; none of that enforcement was for blocking rights-of-way or riding on sidewalks.
Representatives for Bird and for Minneapolis told Smart Cities Dive they do not comment on pending litigation. Lime also declined to comment on the litigation, but offered an email statement: "Lime is committed to finding a solution that works for everyone. Dockless micromobility significantly improves the quality of life for millions of people around the world, but as we run into challenges, the onus is on us to innovate and educate. That's why we’ve engaged disability advocates and continue to educate riders and the community about proper riding and parking etiquette to ensure scooters are parked in an orderly, respectful way."