Share Scooter Leaders Co-Create 10 Rules for Best Industry Regulation

Denver, US

Four leading share e-scooter and e-bike providers in the US have put their heads together to devise 10 recommendations for the best regulation of their industry.

Superpedestrian, Bird, Lime and Spin unveiled their recommendations at last month’s Designing Cities 2023 – an annual conference for the National Association of City Transportation Officials – to help North American cities better integrate shared e-bikes and e-scooters onto their streets.

“As the shared e-bike and e-scooter industry matures, we’re glad to stand alongside our counterparts to put forward what we’ve found to be the most successful regulatory measures to keep micromobility programs safe, organised and sustainable over the long-term,” according to a statement from Superpedestrian.

The 10 recommendations, focused on program administration and operational regulations, are:


1. Appropriate number of operators to avoid oversaturation of a market and provide healthy competition, customer choice, and easy administration for cities.

As a general guideline, in markets with less than 1000 scooters, at least two operators and a maximum of three operators, with the following recommended ratios:

  • 1,000-2,000 scooters in total: maximum of two operators (e.g. Phoenix)
  • 2,000+ scooters in total: maximum of three operators (e.g. New York, Chicago)

2. Fleet size that balances reliability with tidiness, starting with a manageable initial fleet and growing in line with the success of the program and compliance with city priorities. Below are guidelines, with actual thresholds dependent on market conditions.

One vehicle per 500 people as an initial baseline. However, special population considerations, such as a large commuter base, seasonal population swings, and large student populations could require additional vehicles.

Fleet growth tied to operator performance based on metrics measuring compliance with city priorities (tidiness, responsiveness, maintenance, etc.).

3. Long-term programs and contracts, allowing riders and operators to rely on micromobility over the long term.

A minimum of a two-year contract term for pilots and three to four years for permanent programs. These durations provide sufficient time for:

  • Operators to ramp up services and invest long-term in the city’s program
  • The city to evaluate services
  • The public to gain the long-term confidence to depend on micromobility.

4. Fees covering the reasonable and transparent costs of program administration and public space occupancy, consistent with fees paid by similar modes.

Unlike almost all other transportation services – including prior bikeshare programs – shared e-scooter operators typically provide services free of charge to cities.

Operators also frequently pay fees to offset cities’ costs to administer micromobility programs. To promote transparency, adoption of micromobility, and financially sustainable programs, any fees should:

  • Offset reasonable costs to the city of administering the shared micromobility program, with costs transparently shared with operators and the public.
  • Be equivalent to fees charged to similar modes, like bikeshare, and a fraction of the per-mile fees charged to modes like ridesharing and cars that emit pollution, contribute to congestion, require higher enforcement and administration costs, and impose greater wear and tear on roads and infrastructure.
  • Ensure the revenue to the city grows with the program through a per-ride fee.

Fees should be set prior to vendor selection and applied consistently across all operators. This avoids negative outcomes such as operators overpromising on financial commitments, legal concerns over excessive fees, and operators winning bids and then withdrawing from the market due to unsustainable fees.

Fines should be reasonable, commensurate with the harm caused by the infraction and account for barriers to safe compliance, like insufficient infrastructure.

5. Uniform and automated data sharing through MDS (mobility data specification) and GBFS (general bikeshare feed specification) protocols, which are designed by and for cities and the most common methods used today.

MDS and GBFS facilitate easy and consistent submission of information to cities across operators and easy utilisation of data by cities. MDS and GBFS are designed to protect rider privacy by excluding directly identifiable person data, keeping personal information safe and protecting cities from the threat that hackers will gain access to sensitive information.

MDS and GBFS are continually updated to ensure cities are getting state-of-the-art data feeds without requiring dedicated city resources.

With uniform data sharing requirements, operators are able to spend more time working with cities to provide useful data for monitoring and evaluation, and less resource spent building bespoke data reports.

6. Selection processes designed to identify the operators best suited to provide quality service over the long term, tailored to a city’s unique needs.

In mature markets, competitive public procurement (RFP, tender, etc.) is the method best suited to select the most appropriate vendor to serve a city’s needs. Competitive public procurement also ensures the program is easily administered by the city and improves accountability for service delivery.

License structures and ‘open market’ models are less desirable, as they encourage the oversaturation of operators and vehicles and result in poorly managed fleets. The administrative costs of managing an oversaturated scheme are also likely to be higher for a city than in a controlled scheme selected via competitive public procurement.

Competitive public procurements should draw on the experience of other procured services and ensure that operators are selected according to the quality-of-service provision.

Operators should never be selected based on financial contribution (‘city fees’, ‘level of investment’ or ‘user pricing’). It creates unsustainable market conditions and should be avoided. This leads to negative outcomes for cities, such as operators overpromising in bids or failing to deliver a quality service because the business is not financially sustainable. In the worst case, operators will abandon markets which are financially unsustainable – leading to service failure or a major gap in provision.

Reliability, safety, sustainability, and fleet management should be the core criteria for selecting operators.

Where relevant, cities should require evidence of delivery in comparable cities to support claims made by operators in competitive public procurement or application documents.

Outcome or performance-based criteria and regulations are preferable to requiring specific technology or operational practices, especially those that are just emerging and may not be applicable to the city’s unique circumstances. (Earl Blumenauer, 2011)

Outcome-based and technology-neutral requirements encourage operators to bring their experience and creativity to provide great service and curb negative externalities like antisocial behaviour (sidewalk riding, tandem riding, poor parking, etc.). This encourages innovation based on local conditions and new practices as they emerge.

Procurement criteria or regulations which specify technological solutions risk limiting innovation, and cities becoming stuck with outdated regulations based on legacy technologies.


7. Operating area and hours that maximise access to destinations throughout the city and for residents working non-standard hours.

Operating areas contiguous with the city boundaries are preferable to connect residents and visitors with destinations anywhere across the city.

If a whole city operating area is not feasible, operating areas should be contiguous and connect people with the important centres of the city (cultural, business, recreational).

Like cars and public transport, micromobility should be available at all times to support use for daily activities and by those who work non-standard schedules. (City of Detroit, 2021)

8. Authorised parking conveniently located close to where riders start and end their trips to increase program use, reliability, and tidiness. (Brown et al, 2021)

There are many different parking options. Density, existing infrastructure and pedestrian patterns inform what will be most effective in any given city.

Dockless parking is well suited to lower density areas or where parking infrastructure (incl. racks and painted bays) is not sufficiently available:

  • Needs clear rules about safe parking
  • No-parking zones in sensitive or highly pedestrianised areas

Mandatory parking in dedicated, physical parking corrals is well suited to denser urban areas like downtowns. Mandatory corrals require sufficient infrastructure and parking corral density:

  • Minimum of 40 parking corrals/ (roughly one per block)
  • Minimum of three parking spaces for each scooter (e.g. 3,000 spaces for, 1,000 vehicles)
  • Hybrid parking with mandatory parking in dense areas and stationless parking in less dense areas

A practical system which corresponds to other comparable urban regulatory schemes, like zoning codes, and accounts for variation among neighbourhoods and infrastructure.

9. 15mph speed limit to ensure the safety of riders.

Fifteen miles per hour (24.14kmh) vehicle speeds are consistent with other vehicles like bikes or e-bikes, allowing for safer riding that aligns with the pace of traffic. (Arellano and Fang, 2019)

Riders are more likely to ride on sidewalks where speed is capped below 15mph because they feel unsafe mixing with faster vehicles on the roadway.

Based on our piloting of technology in many cities and data from third parties and cities, automatic speed reductions or throttling speeds on sidewalks is dangerous, as it forces riders onto unsafe streets and does not increase safety for pedestrians.

10. Helmets should be encouraged but not mandatory.

Scientific research shows no reliable correlation between mandatory helmet laws and improved rider safety. (Teschke et al, 2015).

Helmets create a false sense of safety among riders, drivers, and the public. Drivers are more likely to drive closer to riders wearing helmets. (Walker, 2007)

Helmets are ineffective in protecting riders from car crashes – the largest cause of severe injuries and fatalities.

There is safety in numbers. Where bikeshare is introduced, the number of people riding bicycles increases, which is associated with a decrease in the absolute number of bicycle accidents. (Fishman and Schepers, 2018) By contrast, mandatory helmet requirements discourage people from using micromobility, including private bicycles, so safety declines.

Riders are reluctant to use shared helmets – particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Helmet-wearing mandates exacerbate existing social inequalities, leading to lower use of micromobility by underrepresented groups and disproportionate impact of enforcement.

Lower-income groups may be unable to purchase their own helmets or have limited access to retail outlets selling helmets, and groups that wear cultural or religious headgear are deterred from using micromobility.

Bike laws, including mandatory helmet requirements, are disproportionately enforced against minority riders. (Wisniewski, 2018; Sanders et al, 2017)

Accelerating Shift to Zero Emission Transportation

Superpedestrian says the 10 recommendations will help cities accelerate a shift to zero-emission transportation through safe and well-integrated shared electric vehicles.

“The recommendations come as cities in North America increasingly move from pilots to full-scale shared e-scooter and e-bike programs,” its statement says.

“Taken together, they provide a framework for how to successfully set up and manage shared mobility programs to yield positive results for residents and achieve city mobility and sustainability goals.

“The recommendations aim to further normalise shared e-bike and e-scooter services within city transportation networks and address points of friction that have hampered select programs in the past.

“These recommendations reflect our combined experience operating shared electric vehicles in hundreds of cities around the world over the past seven years, while providing hundreds of millions of rides to local travellers.”

Join the conversation
Do you agree with the 10 recommendations? Would they translate effectively to Australian services?

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