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D.C. permits electric scooters from company co-founded by former Olympic athlete

Bolt Mobility may deploy up to 600 electric scooters in the District

A Bolt scooter
Getty Images

The city has granted Bolt Mobility, a micromobility company co-founded by former Olympic sprinter and world-record holder Usain Bolt, a permit to provide up to 600 shared electric scooters in D.C. through the end of 2019, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced Tuesday. DDOT says it will begin accepting applications for 2020 permits for dockless scooters and bikes this fall. Currently, D.C. has approximately 5,000 such vehicles.

“Reopening the permit application allows us to expand the field of operators and reward the most innovative, safe and efficient providers of dockless bikes and scooters,” DDOT Director Jeff Marootian says in a statement. A spokeswoman for the department says five companies applied for “mid-year” dockless vehicle permits after DDOT opened applications in late May. Bolt Mobility rolled out its electric scooters in neighboring Arlington County this past March.

With the addition of Bolt’s scooters, D.C. has granted eight dockless vehicle permits across seven companies in 2019, according to DDOT. (The agency administers permits for electric scooters and electric bikes separately, and Uber-owned Jump offers both types of vehicles.) Last month, Scooter provider Skip had its permit temporarily suspended after reports of its devices catching fire in the past few months, including at its D.C. warehouse and downtown.

DDOT says it also has conditionally approved Bolt to provide electric bikes, Hopr to provide electric bikes and electric scooters, and Razor to provide electric scooters, once these firms pay their respective permit fees. (The latter two companies do not operate in the District yet.)

A sweeping bill that the D.C. Council is considering would ban the overnight use of electric scooters in the city, set up parking rules and fines, and require 24-hour complaint hotlines. The legislation still has to receive a hearing and the Council is currently on summer recess.