Atlanta Eyes Regulation of Booming Electric Scooter Business –

Jack Hearn, 20, a third-year civil engineering major at Georgia Tech, rides a Bird scooter on campus. JOHN SPINK
Jack Hearn, 20, a third-year civil engineering major at Georgia Tech, rides a Bird scooter on campus. JOHN SPINK /

To supporters, they’re an inventive, convenient way to get around the city without much of a carbon footprint. To critics, they’re critters that litter Atlanta’s sidewalks, posing a danger to pedestrians, drivers and the people who use them.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, those dockless scooters that popped up around Atlanta earlier this year could soon be officially regulated by the City of Atlanta.

“These scooters appeared one day and took the city by storm,” said Councilor Michael Julian Bond, the lead sponsor of new legislation.

At a City Council public safety committee meeting Tuesday, the body discussed an ordinance that would set specific rules for where the scooters can be ridden and parked, and implement permit requirements that could net tens of thousands of dollars for the city. The committee voted to hold the bill for now, before it is potentially voted on by the full Council.

The dockless scooter trend has exploded across the country and the world over the past year, reaching cities in more than 25 states as well countries such as Mexico, France and Israel. In some cities like San Antonio and Richmond, the scooters have been met with backlash, and city crews reportedly took to the streets and removed the devices themselves.

Around intown Atlanta, the scooters, operated by California-based companies Lime and Bird, are hard to miss. A Bird representative told the City Council on Tuesday that Atlanta is the company’s second-largest scooter city globally (behind San Diego), and that there are currently over 1,500 Bird scooters deployed here.

They are dockless and electric, meaning they rev up to about 15 mph and can be left virtually anywhere for the next rider. All it takes is a smartphone app to start a relatively inexpensive ride, which costs a $1 flat fee and 15 cents for each additional minute. (Overnight, a team of local employees drives around to pick up and charge the devices.)

On a recent afternoon outside a restaurant near the Beltine, a group of friends squealed “Birds!” as they hopped on a row of the sleek black scooters that awaited them on the sidewalk. Among the group, Marietta resident Kate Noble said it was her first time riding one of the scooters in Georgia.

“Especially in a city like Atlanta, where you’ve got the BeltLine and you’ve got things that connect, I think it’s a fun way to get around,” Noble said.

The current legislation, which would go into effect Jan. 1, sets a $12,000 annual fee for a company to operate 500 scooters, and a $50 fee for every additional device.

It also mandates that the scooters are technically not allowed to ride on sidewalks. This, Bond stressed, is thanks to state law, which prohibits motorized devices from driving on Georgia sidewalks.

Regardless, it highlights the tricky middle ground the scooters have landed in. Since Atlanta is a notoriously car-heavy city, it’s common to see scooter-riders defying the law and cruising down the sidewalks of busy streets like Monroe Drive or Peachtree Street.

Todd O’Boyle, Lime’s development director for the Southeast, said they surveyed riders on whether they use the street or the sidewalk.

“Riders consistently reported that if they ride on the sidewalk, it’s because they didn’t feel safe on the streets,” O’Boyle said.

Inman Park resident Stephanie Thomas worries that scooter riders who are afraid to cruise on the streets could be a danger to pedestrians on sidewalks. Thomas said she was leaving her pedicure appointment on North Highland Avenue earlier this summer when a person on a scooter zipped by, brushing her shoulder.

“If he had been any closer, he would’ve hurt me,” Thomas said. “He never even looked back. That was very frustrating.”

Electric scooters have also been linked to a number of crimes in the city, including a shooting downtown and harassment and theft in Midtown, according to police, though they said there is no direct linkbetween the scooters and crime.

Under the current rules, the scooters are technically not allowed on the BeltLine, though it appears this has not been widely enforced — it’s rare to take a stroll on the BeltLine and not pass fleets of Birds or Limes. The new ordinance would clarify that the scooters can ride on the BeltLine and in city parks.

With an average trip time of 10 minutes, Lime riders in Atlanta take longer scooter treks than people in other major American cities, O’Boyle said.

“People are riding scooters really from one pocket of density to another,” he said. “We really are seeing that people are using this to use their transportation needs,” he said.

O’Boyle and others herald the scooters as an antidote that could help alleviate the metro area’s traffic problems, but it remains to be seen whether the two-wheeled devices are a potential solution, or if they will only become another vehicle on the road complicating the lives of Atlantans.

“We want to give people as many options as possible to live less auto-dependent lives, and that is core to our operation,” he said.

While the scooters are currently confined to the City of Atlanta, they could likely show up soon in other pockets of the metro area.

O’Boyle said Lime has seen interest from neighboring communities like Brookhaven, and while he doesn’t expect any expansion announcements soon, he “wouldn’t be surprised if we’re there in the near future.” The City of Brookhaven confirmed that it is “working with the industry” to develop policies for the devices.

Nov 13, 2018
By J.D. Capelouto, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Or Maybe It Was The Ice Cream…

Happy Thoughts & Happy Days
Happy Thoughts & Happy Days

Each day I start work I flip the page to my happy thoughts calendar called “365 Happy Days! A happy thought for every day.” Sometimes it’s a famous quote or a little bit of a poem or just a happy thought that puts a smile on your face and helps you start the day out right. I just turned over the page in my happy thoughts calendar and I thought I’d share this thought with you:

“Take time out to think about an enjoyable occasion from your childhood – a birthday party or a trip to the zoo or making sandcastles on the beach. For a few moments let yourself be that child again.”

Now think back. Take a journey with me. What is your favorite childhood memory?

First I thought about birthday parties. I never had a birthday party when I was a kid. I think it was because my birthday is in August and I couldn’t hand invitations to my classmates since school was not in session. I should add that I did eventually have a birthday party when I was 18 years old. It was a surprise party at my aunt’s house. I thought my best friend and I were going to the lake and my mom asked me to drop something off at my Aunt Martha’s house. Surprise!

But before I stray off topic it got me to thinking about all the times when I was young my family went swimming at the lake on the weekend. We’d take a day trip on a Saturday to Atwood Lake or Tappan. Mostly we’d go to Atwood because it was closer. I remember from those summer lake trips that the days were hot and the lake was cool. We’d spend hours swimming and playing in the lake like a bunch of water babies. By the end of the day when the sun was setting and the earth was starting to cool and feel green again, we’d wrap up in big colorful sun-warmed beach towels and climb in the backseat of the green station wagon in our wet swimsuits and before we’d reach home we’d drive up to the local Dairy Queen and get a chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream cone or a Cherry Misty Slush for the ride home. There was nothing like it to capture the feeling of a drowsy, tranquil happiness.

Before Summer ends make time for a beachside walk, a summer lake trip or float in your local YMCA pool. There is something magical about being near or in the water that makes you feel calmer, more relaxed and happier. Or maybe it was the ice cream.

By Marci McKenna

Three Keys to Win a Social Security Disability Hearing

In representing someone In a claim for Social Security Disability Benefits, oftentimes an attorney representative will find themselves in a hearing, representing their clients in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

When appearing before an ALJ, preparation, detail, and precison is vital to a case’s success. Balancing these three areas is also just as important.

Almost every ALJ at hearing will be expecting an attorney to present their theory of the case, how and why their claimant is disabled, based on evidence and regulations. This is where the balancing act becomes even more critical.

This is because an ALJ offers a limited amount of time for you as an attorney to make an opening statement. A client’s file can be several thousand pages long at times, and you may only have minutes to get your point across as an attorney representative.

I listed Preparation as the first topic because everything else that follows comes from this. If an attorney prepares the case thoroughly before the hearing, they will hopefully have many pages of notes that point out the most important facts of the case. They will hopefully have waded through thousands of pages of information, being ready for questioning by the ALJ about the factual record.

From proper preparation comes great Detail. This does not mean attempting to recite an encyclopedia’s worth of information to an ALJ. What it does mean is to know your record forwards and backwards, being able to refer to the exhibits, pages numbers, imaging studies, doctor opinions, and other facts of importance in your conversation with the ALJ why your claimant is disabled.

At this moment, Precision becomes all the more important. You can get lost in thousands of pages if you don’t know how to proceed in your argument. Your preparation, before the hearing, has given you the confidence to know what present, to know what to highlight, what facts and regulations are really going to make the difference in your client’s case – good or bad. A prepared attorney should be a precise attorney because the ALJ is a busy person with many hearings to handle each day, and will only allow you so much time to present your argument. However, with the confidence of a detailed preparation, a Social Security Disability attorney will be ready to give specific and precise analysis and commentary to an ALJ – thus setting a positive tone for the rest of the hearing.

Harry Brenner, Attorney at Law

Affleck and Gordon, P.C.