Weekly Links: brief commentary on local, state, and national stories from (roughly) the past week
Note to Atlanta: You Don’t Have to Do Whatever Companies Want, Just Ask Athens
Athens’ decision to place a one-year moratorium on e-scooters while rules and policies are designed and implemented is now looking like a pretty good move – at least if they actually follow through on that. The Atlanta City Council this week introduced legislation that would prohibit the city from issuing any new permits for e-scooters while Mayor Bottoms initiated a ban on the devices between the hours of 9 pm and 4 am. This comes in the wake of three people being killed in the city while riding the scooters with a fourth death on Wednesday in East Point.
It doesn’t take too much wisdom to predict such outcomes when over 5,000 electric scooters are unleashed on the city in a very short period of time. E-scooters can clearly benefit cities by making medium to long distance treks more palatable to those who don’t want to (or can’t) use a car. They’re also fun. But what we have now is chaos. The current infrastructure simply doesn’t allow e-scooters, pedestrians, and bicycles to safely operate simultaneously, largely because we’ve made all those modes of transportation second-tier to cars (see article below).
That obviously has to change, but hanging people out to dry is probably not the best way to force that change. To protect pedestrians, scooters are required to be operated on streets, but streets are dangerous so most scooters are operated on sidewalks. It’s a basic public safety failure to allow companies to place e-scooters all over the city while doing almost nothing to promote the safety of riders or pedestrians. Perhaps instead of allowing companies to create a game geared towards their bottom line, the city should create a game geared towards the well-being of residents. Remember, Atlanta, you’re the city, not Lime or Uber or whatever yet-to-be-named company that already has $10 billion in funding. It looks like this realization may finally be happening.
All the Ways the Law Promotes Cars Over People
In The Atlantic, University of Iowa Law Professor Gregory H. Shill runs through a list of various laws and policies that promote cars and driving over pedestrians, transit, and other forms of transportation. We often think of driving as a necessity and simply a way of life, but often overlooked is the fact local, state, and federal laws are frequently the reason why we’re so reliant on cars.
These policies range from local exclusionary zoning practices that promote the segregation of land uses (which necessitates driving) to federal tax laws that provide deductions for car owners and nothing for transit users. The most popular method for setting speed limits, known as the operating-speed method, says limits should be set at 85% of what drivers will obey. Meaning if more people drive faster, then the speed limit must be raised. This is true even though the National Transportation Safety Board says speed is one of the leading risk factors for car crashes.
Many of these laws and policies should, of course, be changed, but we could encourage non-auto transportation by making more minor changes to infrastructure, educating the public on pedestrian-safety laws, and then actually enforcing those laws. Placing cops at busy intersections to issue warnings to drivers clearly disobeying crosswalk laws could help to encourage non-auto use where the larger laws and policies fail. Enhancing crosswalks and converting streets from one-way to two-way would slow down traffic, which could make streets like West Peachtree and Spring Street feel less like I-85 and more like an actual city.
Florida and Georgia Pitch Their Water Arguments Again – This Time in New Mexico
Thanks to a US Supreme Court decision last year, Florida and Georgia will continue their fight over water in Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Water Basin (known locally as the “Water Wars”). Florida sued Georgia several years ago asking the Supreme Court to manually allocate water between the two states, though the Court last year rejected the recommendation of the case’s special master to dismiss Florida’s petition. Since then, a new special master, Paul Kelly, has been appointed and it’s now time for the Florida and Georgia to pitch their arguments to him. Since Mr. Kelly is from New Mexico, that’s where the arguments will occur.
The US Supreme Court will then get a recommendation from Mr. Kelly as to what he thinks should happen. The former special master recommended dismissing the case since the US Army Corps of Engineers, which manages water flow in the Basin, isn’t a party to the lawsuit. Under this theory, even if Florida had a case to make, there would be no point in reaching a decision since the Corps wouldn’t be legally bound by a Supreme Court ruling. In the 5-4 decision last year, the Supreme Court looked past the Corps problem, asking the parties for more information regarding how exactly Florida could be helped if the Court imposed a cap on Georgia’s water use. That gets us to where we’re at now with the two states re-arguing their cases for Mr. Kelly in New Mexico.
If you’re interested in the history of the Water Wars between Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, we’ve got much more coverage over on this page.
Cover Photo: E-Scooter resting in a tree, Highland Avenue, Atlanta.
Categories: Weekly Links