Nashville’s mayor wants to ban electric scooters after a man died riding one

Fun, until it’s not.
Fun, until it’s not.
Image: REUTERS/Paul Hanna
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Nashville, Tennessee, could ban electric scooters a month after a man died riding one.

City mayor David Briley said June 21 that he recommended the city council end an e-scooter pilot program and pass legislation to immediately remove scooters from city rights-of-way. “We have seen the public safety and accessibility costs that these devices inflict, and it is not fair to our residents for this to continue,” Briley tweeted. He said scooters may return in the future under a more rigorous permit process, “with strict oversight for numbers, safety, and accessibility.”

E-scooter companies Bird, Bolt, Gotcha, Lime, Lyft, Spin, and Uber-owned Jump have been operating in Nashville. Most of those companies told Quartz they continue to operate while awaiting a city council vote on the mayor’s proposal. Many also pointed to a report by Walk Bike Nashville, a local nonprofit that advocates for “active transportation,” which found in May that 1.8 million scooter trips had been taken in Nashville over the past year—an average of 10,000 per day.

Bird was the first scooter company to launch in Nashville in May 2018, and attracted a cease-and-desist notice in the process. It said that Briley is overstating his authority and doesn’t have the power to shut down scooters in Nashville. “We’ve been working around the clock to address all concerns and to meet the ongoing needs of the community,” a Bird spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “A ban on e-scooters, even if temporary, puts too much at risk for the broader Nashville community.”

Since May 2018, scooters have been the subject of more than 800 complaints according to city data, often for “scooter removal.”

Late last month, 26-year-old Brady Gaulke died after being struck by a vehicle while riding a Bird scooter. Police said Gaulke made an improper turn onto the road from the sidewalk around 10pm on May 16, when he was hit by a Nissan Pathfinder. He died of his injuries three days later. Police later concluded that Gaulke “operated a Bird scooter in a reckless manner while under the influence of alcohol.” No charges were filed against the Nissan Pathfinder driver.

Gaulke’s girlfriend of four years set up a GoFundMe to raise money for his medical expenses, memorial service, and a foundation that raises awareness around brain trauma. The GoFundMe page, which at last count had raised $13,910 of its $15,000 goal, also called for Nashville to “ban these awful motorized vehicles in our cities.” It included a link to a petition calling for the mayor and city council to ban electric scooter companies: As of June 24, it had collected more than 2,700 of its goal of 5,000 signatures.

Scooters have been linked to hundreds of injuries and a handful of deaths since becoming popular over the past year or so. A study by Austin Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified 190 injured riders over 936,110 scooter trips from early September through November, 2018. In Paris, an e-scooter rider, 25, was hit and killed by a truck on June 10.