Have you gotten the feeling lately that you are living in an electric vehicle version of a Mad Max movie? Instead of gasoline, these apocalyptic warriors hunt for outlets. Various modes of electric-powered transportation have proliferated in Glover Park and it makes one wonder what if any laws apply and which ones are enforced. Electric bicycles, scooters, skateboards, hoverboards, improvised one-wheels and restaurant delivery mopeds driving the wrong way on one-way streets now roam the neighborhood in search of power. Where is Mel Gibson when you need him? And, whatever happened to the Segway? That bulky thing died off like that Peloton in the basement closet.
Washington DC does have laws which apply to these modes of transportation, though they do tend to lag a bit behind technology and business advancement. Such laws are necessary to mitigate dangerous situations which can result from recklessness and confusion about the rules of the road. The map at the bottom shows the locations (blue dots) of about 50 reported incidents in the past year in Glover Park involving vehicle, bicycle and e-transports, some of which affected pedestrians as well. It certainly is not an epidemic when you compare these stats to other locations in the city, but still worthy of attention with the current confusing situation. Note that the majority of the incidents (32), as you would expect, occurred on Wisconsin Avenue (some blue dots represent multiple incidents) like the one in the photo here in front of Rocklands. How was that even possible?
Also, here’s another photo at that dangerous intersection at 37th and Tunlaw where few drivers coming off 37th Street seem to be able to understand that there is oncoming traffic. This one happened on 10/28/22 and the driver nearly missed a tree while taking out a stop sign, skidding through a neighbor’s front yard and ending up perched on the retaining wall. Yikes. I texted the owner: “there is a car in your front yard.”
Here is a summary of the rules in DC regarding these non-traditional modes of transportation. Most rules are broken consistently and some of the violations are putting pedestrians at risk, as well as the vehicle operators themselves. In addition, car drivers sometimes are not heeding the right of way if they do not understand the rules:
1) The laws regarding motorized bicycles have gotten a bit muddled with the proliferation of other types of electric-powered transports, but here is how it reads in the DC Code: 18-1201.18: “Except as otherwise permitted for a motor vehicle, no person shall operate a motorized bicycle on any sidewalk or any off-street bikepath or bicycle route within the District. This prohibition shall apply even though the motorized bicycle is being operated solely by human power.” 18-1201.19: “A motorized bicycle may be operated on any part of a roadway designated for the use of bicycles.” A motorized bicycle that does not have pedals, or has pedals but can be powered above speeds of 20 mph (nationally called a Class-3 bicycle) would come under motorcycle or moped rules, not bicycle rules.
2) Non-powered bicycles have the right of way in crosswalks but must yield to pedestrians. They are allowed to pass cars either on the right or the left, even if they do not have a full open lane to do so. They are not required to ride on the right side a lane. They are allowed to ride on the sidewalk except in the central business district. They are not required to use bike lanes. Helmets are required for bike riders under the age of 16. Bikes need a light if ridden after dark and all bikes require a bell.
3) Personal mobility devices (PMD’s) such as a scooter or a one-wheel may be driven in bike lanes and on sidewalks (except in the central business district). These also do not require a helmet except if the operator is under 18. No one under the age of 16 is allowed to operate these PMD’s. In addition, only one person is allowed at a time, and hand-held packages are prohibited.
4) Any type of ATV is prohibited on DC public property.
5) Any type of legal four-wheeled vehicle requires a license, registration and insurance and must follow all the rules of the road.
6) Scooters must be locked to city infrastructure when not in use. This law has been in place for more than a year, though it is not being followed or enforced widely, as you certainly have witnessed the scooters strewn about anywhere and everywhere. This law also applies to e-bikes, though that law was in place prior to the scooter add-on. While it would be difficult to track down and fine the operator, the companies that rent these scooters also are liable financially for their customers’ negligence. If they start getting fined they will do a better job at enforcing the rules with their customers.
7) Scooter may not be placed within 300 feet of any elementary or middle school (that’s the length of a football field). Most such students are under 16, so why are these scooters all around the schools? School employees should be made aware of this rule.
8) Riding a PMD under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal. Duh.
Now that you know the rules, you can go full-Karen on anyone you wish. Bad idea – instead let’s encourage local officials (like those newly elected ANC members) to educate people on current, confusing and ever-changing rules and get the companies providing services to do the same and encourage their customers to follow the rules.
Two years ago e-scooter and e-bike permits issued to companies were capped at about 11,000 until the DC Council put forth a bill raising that cap to 20,000 by the end of 2023. As of this year, the District Department of Transportation reports 14,290 permits granted to six companies. The continued proliferation also will impact DDOT’s proposal to remove up to 187 parking spaces along 37th Street, Tunlaw Road and New Mexico Avenue in Glover Park to create bike lanes. What would you guess would be the non-powered bike percentage of traffic using these new lanes? My guess is the vast majority will be all manner of electric vehicles zooming past the few bike riders using leg power, which wasn’t really the intention, was it?
The proliferation of alternative electric transportation also has sparked (no pun intended) a new industry – electric-bike-ambulance chasers…I mean scooter accident lawyers….I mean “seasoned personal injury attorneys.” If you ran over someone’s toes in a crosswalk with your Lime, or you took out a scooter that dared to pass you on the right, then Google it – you’ll get a lawyer quicker than that stop sign camera on 37th Street can mail you a ticket.