New legislation in Washington, DC requires all riders to lock scooters that can be rented after using them, giving rider concerns about convenience and lack of bike rack space.
The District of Columbia Council began requiring riders to lock rentable scooters for bike racks, scooter lanes, stop signs and parking signs from October 1st. Scooters cannot be locked to private fences, gates, trees, bus stops or other objects not approved by the District Department of Transportation’s guidelines.
The new law aims to keep DC streets clear and accessible by preventing electric scooters from throwing sidewalks, according to a Sept. 27 press release.
“By requiring these shared fleet vehicles to be locked to certain infrastructures and making more of that infrastructure accessible, we keep our sidewalks and public places open and free of obstacles for all to enjoy,” said District Department of Transportation Director Everett Lott said.
The new rule can become inconvenient if a bike rack is not nearby, according to Ryan Montgomery (MSB ’25), who uses electric scooters at least three times a week.
“I’ve only used it once since I’ve had to use the lock, and there happened to be a bike rack right by where I stopped,” Montgomery said in an interview with The Hoya. “However, I could definitely see it as a disadvantage.”
There are several electric scooter companies servicing the district, including Lime, Helbiz and Bird, all of which work to ensure customers can lock and unlock the scooter via each company’s app.
However, according to Montgomery, companies like Helbiz have not properly communicated how to lock scooters that can be rented in accordance with the city’s new rules.
“It’s not that it’s frustrating to have to unlock the scooter, it’s that Helbiz’s app doesn’t tell you unless you have the latest update,” Montgomery said. “I only found out about this after waiting for a wait of 10 minutes with customer relations while my driving time was still going on.”
The DC Council passed a bill in October 2020 that requires electric scooters to be secured and locked from October 2021 in an effort to keep sidewalks free for everyone, including people who are dependent on wheelchairs or canes.
According to a press release from October 1 from Helbiz, the locking system integrated in the existing app will be user-friendly.
“The lock-to-mechanism will be integrated into Helbiz e-scooters, designed to attach parked units to bicycle racks, signs or other infrastructure throughout the city,” the press release said. “Once each trip is completed, the Helbiz app activates the lock on and asks users to take a picture of the device to confirm that it was parked and locked correctly.”
Despite reassurance from electric scooter companies and the district that this regulation will not be to the detriment of riders, some riders have reported user problems in the days following the new rule, including concerns that locking scooters to bike racks could take place on the racks , necessary for those who use bicycles or mobility equipment. However, the October 2020 bill required the Department of Transportation to install 200 new racks each year until 2025 to create more space for electronic mobility equipment such as scooters.
The new law is unlikely to hamper equestrianism as long as DC provides adequate infrastructure for riders to park and lock the electric scooters properly, according to a Lime spokesman.
“We expect this to have minimal impact on riders, but we hope the district will currently take the opportunity to expand parking lots such as bike racks and parking lots,” the Lime spokesman wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Lock-to works when the infrastructure to support it is there, and we look forward to working with the district to continue building safe streets and micro-mobility parking infrastructure.”
Now that the law has come into force, there will be negative consequences if riders do not comply with the new rules, so it is in the best interest of users to follow the rules, according to an email Lime sent to its users on September 28th.
“If you park responsibly, great!” e-mail read. “If not, we’ll have to remove you from the Lime platform – then park responsibly.”