Politics & Government

Electric scooter companies run into a roadblock trying to follow the law in Raleigh

E-scooter companies are running into a roadblock as they attempt to comply with city regulations — they can’t register their scooters with the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles.

Lime — one of the two scooter companies in Raleigh — has been attempting to register its scooters with the DMV, something the company says is required by the city. But the company was told that since the scooters don’t have a vehicle identification number and don’t have a title, they are considered “personal mobility devices.”

CJ Shaw, Lime’s general manager for the state, said an inspector at the DMV said the scooters couldn’t be classified as a moped either.

“You’re talking about a process that we spent four hours over the course of two days trying to get clarity, trying to register one scooter,” Shaw said. Lime has a fleet of 500 scooters in Raleigh. Bird — the other scooter company in Raleigh — hasn’t begun attempting to register its scooters.

Registering the vehicles as mopeds is not specifically in Raleigh’s rules. But it does say the companies must follow all local, state and federal laws. Raleigh was told by a DMV attorney that scooters are best defined as mopeds under state law, said Michael Moore, Raleigh’s transportation director.

“This is what happens when you have technologies that come in and don’t fit under a traditional classification of things,” Moore said. “When that happens, municipalities and states are left to try and put together the best possible scenario to fit under a framework that provides for the health, wellness and safety of the general public.”

If Lime is having trouble registering the scooters, that’s something it will have to work out with the DMV, Moore said.

This is just the latest source of confusion for scooter companies since they first popped up in North Carolina cities in 2018. However, a proposal from a state House committee would provide clarity if passed in the current session.

A draft bill approved by the House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions would formally classify electric standup scooters in state law and would exempt them from having to be registered.

The draft bill would also allow for the scooter to be used on public roads that have a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less, sidewalks and bicycle paths. Municipalities would still be able to regulate the scooters under the proposal — but cannot prohibit scooters from operating. However, they can require companies to obtain licenses to operate in cities.

Rep. John Torbett, a Gaston County Republican, confirmed to the NC Insider Thursday that he’ll introduce the bill once work kicks off in the General Assembly later this month.

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