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City solicits micromobility companies for 2020 permits

Under new rules, D.C. will allow for up to 20,000 dockless vehicles

A couple rides an electric scooter through a city intersection. An old theater building stands in the background.
A couple rides a scooter in Columbia Heights.
The Washington Post via Getty Im

The District could see as many as 10,000 rentable scooters and 10,000 rentable bikes on its streets next year under the latest regulations for its dockless vehicle program, now over two years old. On Thursday, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced that it is accepting 2020 permit applications for the program until November 21, two weeks away.

The number of scooter providers will be limited to four, as will the number of bike providers, for a total of eight companies. Each provider will be able to deploy as many as 2,500 vehicles each, and there will be requirements for distributing them equitably in all eight wards. DDOT says in a release that it will create 100 “parking corrals” for the vehicles throughout D.C. and install “sidewalk stencils” within the Central Business District to remind people that riding a bike or scooter on the sidewalk there is prohibited. As of today, eight firms provide scooters (Bird, Bolt, Jump, Lime, Lyft, Razor, Skip, and Spin), while just one (Jump) provides bikes.

That means there will be fewer brands but more dockless vehicles in 2020 than there are now, given that about 6,200 are currently permitted. DDOT held a public comment period on the new rules, from September 25 to October 30, and ultimately received 270 comments. “The majority of comments were focused on safety including dockless vehicle parking, speed limit, conflicts with pedestrians and other transportation modes, and fleet cap,” explains the agency. Battery-powered bikes will continue to be capped at 20 mph and scooters at 10 mph.

A comprehensive set of dockless vehicle laws is working its way through the D.C. Council, and a hearing on them was held earlier this week. They will no longer feature an overnight ban on electric scooter operations as initially floated. The legislation still has to be finalized.