Is this the best way to regulate eScooters? | Wednesday Morning Coffee

May 1, 2019 7:09 am

Lime, a scooter ride share company, is hoping to expand into Pennsylvania by mid-summer, but needs law changes to start offering their wheels to riders. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

On almost every level, human history has been marked by steady, forward progress. And nowhere has this been more true than in our development of wheeled vehicles.

From the most primitive dinosaur-powered vehicles that got the Family Flintstone through the town of Bedrock and the chariots that rocketed a scenery-chewing Charlton Heston around a faux-Roman arena, to Sean Connery’s ejector-seat-equipped Aston Martin and whatever the heck they drive in all 767 ‘Fast and the Furious‘ movies, our obsession with both speed and four-wheels is well documented.

Those refinements sparked other technological developments, like the personal injury attorney and endless insurance company commercials featuring salamanders who aren’t the Eastern Hellbender.

Yes, progress is always forward-moving. Which means there’s no good reason under Heaven and Earth that actual adults should be riding eScooters. But here we find ourselves. And, of course, as The Capital-Star’s Stephen Caruso reported back in February, they need to be regulated.

But how?

Well, worry no longer: Writing at CityLab, a … what else? … a product liability attorney from Detroit named Jesse Halfon, has a few ideas.

Concluding that the existing Consumer Product Safety Commission isn’t up to the task, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (in addition to having a cutesy nickname) has overlapping responsibilities, Halfon says there’s only one thing to do:

Beef up the CPSA and give it a “Mobility Division” that would regulate eScooters and whatever new way we come up with to kill ourselves with wheeled vehicles.

“This CPSC Mobility Division should be specifically authorized to regulate transportation devices involved in rental transactions, so that users of bikeshare and shared e-scooters are appropriately protected. And it should be staffed with experts who understand the varied hardware and software components that are part of today’s mobility ecosystem,” Halfon writes.

He continues:

“After all, if a bicycle needs to meet minimum standards for forks and frames, then an e-scooter ought to meet minimum similar requirements for floorboards and stems. And users of products like shared e-scooters arguably require special attention from consumer protection agencies given that they often have less ability to evaluate product safety than a typical consumer. Shared scooter providers continue to publicly state that safety is its top priority, but critics argue they haven’t done enough to alert customers to potential risks associated with their services.

“Micromobility businesses and advocates may balk at the idea of federal regulation of their vehicles. Navigating the micro-laws of each city in which these companies deploy already presents a significant regulatory challenge. But federal regulation also bestows a kind of legal credibility that the industry desperately needs. And if micromobility matures to become the macro-economic force many believe it will be, then safety regulation is inevitable,” Halfon concludes.

It’s kind of funny seeing scooters (or their inheritors) being used in the same sentence as “mature.” But again, there we find ourselves.

So, we’re gonna be over here checking out this Aston Martin DB11 and trying to figure out how we can scrape together the shekels to buy one.

Our Stuff.
Elizabeth Hardison
 leads our coverage with an explanation of Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell’s (re)confirmation issues.
So what happens when you bring dozens of anti-vaxxers and their kids to the Capitol? Not a measles outbreak, thankfully. But something nearly as pernicious and hard to shake: A Daryl Metcalfe press conferenceStephen Caruso has the story.
Two men who spent years on death row — and were exonerated — told their stories Tuesday, as lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced legislation to finally abolish capital punishment in Pennsylvania.
Giving with one hand, House and Senate committees advanced bills that would create a “GI Bill” for Pa. National Guard personnel and their families.
And taking with the other, another Senate panel advanced a bill making it easier to sue municipalities over their gun ordinances.

On our Commentary Page, a Carlisle High School student who helped draw up the legislation making the Eastern Hellbender the official state amphibian, says she learned from the experience, and hopes future students will do the same. So there, haters.
After a debate that saw lawmakers drop references to Marie KondoGame of Thrones and HoardersHouse Majority Leader Bryan Cutler still seems to think that a bunch of regulatory reform bills are a good idea.
And there’s just no way to make this funny: After hideous shootings at houses of worship around the world, scholars from West Virginia University and Penn State University offer ways to tell if your own place of worship is safe.

The Inquirer runs down where Philly City Council candidates stand on every single issue.
The Post-Gazette reports a confirmed case of measles in Pittsburgh. This has to be Daryl Metcalfe’s fault.
As he was about to head to prison, former Penn State president Graham Spanier’s conviction has been overturned, PennLive reports.
The Morning Call asked every member of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation whether President Donald Trump should be impeached.

Here’s your Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

Lutheran pastor from Pennsylvania is facing criticism for saying “he had hoped the Notre Dame fire in Paris was set by Muslims in order to justify the eradication of Muslims from France,” Keystone Crossroads reports. Just like Jesus would …
BillyPenn explains how urban farming has become a key component of treatment programs in Philadelphia.
Democrats in Lancaster County are fielding a write-in candidate for county courtLancasterOnline reports.
U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright raised $280K in Q1 of the year, while U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick raised $440KPoliticsPA reports. looks at how disturbingly commonplace the anti-overdose drug Naloxone has become.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller complained to AG Bill Barr about the tone of his memo summarizing the special counsel’s report, Politico writes.
Democrats are keeping their options open — fines, jail time — for enforcing subpoenas, Roll Call reports.

What Goes On.
The House and Senate both gavel in at 11 a.m. for their final voting day of this session week.
9:30 a.m., Main Rotunda: Citizens for the Arts in Pa. event
10 a.m, Media Center: Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, others, on Fair Work Weeks
11 a.m., Main Rotunda: Community Providers Capitol Day
11 a.m., Capitol Steps: Nuclear Powers PA event
11 a.m., LG’s Porch: Lincoln University Advocacy Day event
12 p.m., Main Rotunda: Clean Water Advocacy lobbying day
1:30 p.m., Main Rotunda: Salvation Army rally day (please, not the bell-ringers)

Gov. Tom Wolf, with Rep. Dan Frankel, and others, holds a 10 a.m event in the Reception Room for the “civic commemoration” of the Holocaust.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Marcia Hahn
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Keith Greiner
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Joanna McClinton
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out a comparably modest $2,800 today.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s an absolute classic from Big Star to get your Wednesday morning going. It’s “13.”

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
took a 2-1 series lead on Tuesday night, besting Boston 2-1. The only series that matters, Carolina v. the Isles, resumes in Raleigh tonight.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.