OCEAN CITY — The first formal step toward prohibiting dockless bicycle share programs and electric scooters took place this week.
The Mayor and Council had before them Tuesday a proposed ordinance that would ban dockless bicycle share programs and stand-up electric scooter share programs, which have become increasingly popular in metropolitan areas in recent years. In simplest terms, private businesses often flood metropolitan areas with hundreds of bicycles or electric scooters, also known as e-scooters, which can be rented by consumers using a smartphone app.
Using the app, an individual can grab one of the bicycles or e-scooters, ride it to their destination and simply leave it where they no longer need it. Others can then pick up the same bikes or scooters and use their app to take them where they want to go. The private companies then round them all back up and drop them off at locations where there is the highest demand. During a meeting last month, the police Commission voiced concern about the growing phenomenon coming to Ocean City. Among the issues raised was the possibility of potentially hundreds of bicycles and e-scooters cluttering the streets of the resort where consumers just left them when they were finished riding them. As a result, the police commission sought the advice of City Solicitor Guy Ayres on how to ban the share programs. During Tuesday’s work session, the council was presented with a draft ordinance prepared by Ayres that would prohibit the proliferation of bicycle and e-scooter sharing programs in Ocean City.
“We’ve seen issues with these in other parts of the country, including locally in Baltimore and D.C.,” said Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Captain Michael Colbert. “We sought advice from Guy on an ordinance prohibiting them in case somebody wanted to come in a dump a bunch of bikes and scooters on our streets. It seems their business model has been to ask for forgiveness and not permission. They just kind of move in and then us that as leverage.”
Councilman Tony DeLuca said he often travels to Baltimore for Ravens games and has seen some of the issues with the sharing programs first-hand. DeLuca made a motion to approve the ordinance presented on Tuesday prohibiting the practice in Ocean City.
“I’ve witnessed it in Baltimore with both bikes and scooters and it’s just terrible,” he said. “Can you imagine from July 4th to Labor Day all of these scooters and bikes lying around all over the streets?”
Colbert said the problems were particularly acute with the stand-up e-scooters because they don’t fit easily into the existing definitions and regulations on motor scooters and bicycles.
“The problem with the e-scooters is they are so new,” he said. “There is no law in Maryland either regulating them or even defining them. Are they pedestrians? Are they the same as bicycles or motor scooters? Can you ride them on the sidewalk? We just want them because we don’t know what they are at this point.”
Councilman Dennis Dare pointed out language in the ordinance prohibited electric, or battery-assisted, bicycles in Ocean City, which he believed ran afoul of the intent of the ordinance.
“What’s the difference between an electric bicycle and any other bicycle?” he said. “They are already here. If you ride a battery-assisted bicycle to the store, lock it at a bike rack, do your shopping and ride it back home instead of taking your car, why would we want to ban that? I think that section gets away from the intent of this.”
DeLuca amended his motion to delete the language related to the private use of electric bicycles. The motion passed unanimously with a 7-0 vote.