As scooters, bikes, and transit startups flood the streets, cities need to control the curb - Curbed

Forget New York City’s crumbling subway system—the flood of dockless electric scooters is shaping up to be the key urban transportation story of 2018 as citizens in San Francisco and elsewhere become enraged over another example of tech companies barging in and begging for forgiveness instead of asking for permission (or simply waiting for regulations).

In just the past week, local leaders in both Santa Monica, California, the market where billion-dollar startup Bird first launched, and San Francisco, introduced ordinances to restrict and regulate scooter usage. Both initially proposed capping the number dockless vehicles these companies can place on the road, and have been met with pushback by the startups. A Bird spokesperson initially told Curbed the proposed regulations “will severely undercut our ability to serve all of the neighborhoods and residents of Santa Monica.”

The debate over restricting scooters may be a sign cities are finally beginning to catch up with transit startups, which often entered markets before any regulations were in place. But read the Santa Monica regulations, which were just approved, more closely, and signs of a more profound and important shift may be evident. Cities and planners are, more and more, seeing the immense value of controlling the curb.

With more options that ever for getting around cities, and finite space, the question of how we use this infrastructure, and who controls it, is more important than ever. By regulating how these new transportation options evolve, cities can potentially bring about a more sustainable, multimodal, and less car-centric transit future.

“The curb is an increasingly contested piece of urban real estate,” according to “The Shared-Use City: Managing the Curb,” a new report by the International Transport Forum. It’s where companies, citizens, and the government are jockeying for space for transportation, commerce, and delivery. Cities built and maintain the curb, and need to reassert ownership.

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