Feb 12, 2020 - Economy & Business

The intensifying battle between cities and electric scooters

Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Cities are driving electric scooters out, either by explicitly ordering them off the streets or regulating them into extinction.

Why it matters: The rise of dockless electric bikes and scooters has brought on a slew of issues for cities, from crowded curbs to deadly accidents. But they offer a clean, convenient way to get around, and eliminating them entirely isn't the right solution, experts say.

Where it stands: In many cities, new laws, including complex data-sharing requirements and fees, are pushing scooters out. In others, they're altogether banned, CityLab's Laura Bliss writes.

The big picture: Cities are struggling to manage the electric bikes and scooters because "we've developed governance that is pro-car," says Richard Florida, an urbanist at the University of Toronto. "This is a product of cities that are not prepared for the revolution in mobility."

What to watch: "The wrong approach to regulation can become an e-scooter-killer," David Zipper, a fellow at Harvard's Taubman Center for State and Local Government, writes in CityLab.

  • One problem, Zipper notes, is that larger, denser cities are implementing the same regulations as smaller or more scattered towns.
  • For example, a bigger city will have greater demand for scooters and can sustain multiple companies vying for the market. But it may only be worth it for a scooter company to operate in a smaller city if local officials keep competitors out.

Go deeper: The side effects of the transportation revolution

Go deeper

Cities' transportation ideas remain too small to deliver clear results

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Many cities are experimenting with innovative transportation ideas like scooters or autonomous shuttles, but their efforts are often too isolated or too small to deliver meaningful results, according to transportation experts.

Why it matters: Moving people and goods more efficiently is an urgent priority for many cities, which are grappling with issues like congestion, air pollution and accessibility while trying to raise money for necessary upgrades.

The next decade of smart city growth

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Transportation and energy upgrades are expected to be the big drivers of smart city spending over the next decade.

Why it matters: Global spending on smart city projects will reach nearly $124 billion this year, an 18% increase over 2019, according to IDC, a market research firm.

A small but growing number of cities are tackling climate change

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

13% of nearly 900 cities tracked by the nonprofit CDP get a top rating on climate change action — a fraction of the total population, but roughly double the number of cities on the organization's 2018 list.

Why it matters: Cities create more than 60% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and consume 78% of the world’s energy. The 105 cities who received an "A" rating from CDP represent a combined population of 170 million.