William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review


Commuters in cities across the United States struggle to find ease in their daily commute. Public transportation no longer provides residents with an adequate and reliable source of transportation.1 For many commuters, getting to and from nodes of public transportation is difficult and a deterrent from using public or shared transportation instead of driving.2 This, therefore, increases vehicle congestion and car emissions in cities. While multiple new technologies and innovations have emerged to attempt to help commuters with the trip to and from public transportation, most have fallen short.3 But two new innovations that have gained major popularity among consumers, electric scooters and dockless bike share programs, have stepped up to provide much-needed relief to consumers. 4 Electric scooters and dockless bike shares give commuters the freedom they need to easily get to and from nodes of public transportation because they are not limited to certain locations in a city.5 However, many city governments have reacted adversely to electric scooters and dockless bikes, which has and will continue to harm commuters.6 Some cities have issued all out bans of the electric scooters, while others have filed lawsuits against e-scooter manufacturers and even threatened to sue commuters using the e-scooters.7 Further, other cities have over-regulated dockless bicycles to force them to leave the city.8 These measures will not only make life more difficult for commuters now, it could have a chilling effect causing new innovators to be hesitant to bring in a new transportation technology into cities in the future. This Note will argue that instead of banning the e-scooter and bicycle companies or regulating them out of existence, city government should be expending some of the resources spent on attempting to improve public transportation on helping the cities adapt to the new electric scooters and dockless bicycles. Spending some resources in this way would do more to help commuters make daily travel easier and quicker than using all resources to improve public transportation.

In this Note, I will describe the first mile/last mile problem and explain how it plagues commuters across the Untied States everyday. I will also illustrate how current transportation technologies available to commuters, such as ride sharing services and docking bicycle share programs, are lacking in their ability to solve the first mile/last mile problem effectively.

I will then explain that new transportation technologies have the ability to provide much needed relief to commuters struggling with the first mile/last mile problem. I will describe both e-scooter and dockless bike sharing programs and first explain how each technology works. Second I will discuss why they are able to effectively solve the first mile/last mile problem for city commuters. Next, this Note will explain how city officials reacted adversely to the sudden influx of dockless bicycles and e-scooters, such as filing lawsuits against the manufacturing companies or overregulating the companies. I will argue that the way that city officials have reacted to these new technologies is harmful to commuters because it does not allow for the efficient use of the technology and thus does not allow for the technology to help solve the first mile/last mile problem.

Finally, this Note will discuss how city and government officials should react to these incoming technologies to promote the safest and most efficient use by commuters. I will argue that because both e-scooters and dockless bicycles are essentially the same as regular bicycles that commuters own, e-scooters and dockless bicycles should be regulated in a way either the same as or similar to how cities regulate traditional bicycles. Next, I will argue that cities should expend resources on creating infrastructure, such as more bike lanes and bike racks, to allow commuters to take full advantage of e-scooters and dockless bicycles in a safe and efficient way to quell concerns of fellow residents. Lastly, I will look at a new ordinance passed by the Atlanta City Council and explain how it is a great illustration of a way cities can regulate e-scooters and dockless bicycles to ensure safety and overcome concerns voiced by city residents, while still creating enough flexibility for these technologies to grow and properly serve commuters in solving the first mile/last mile problem.