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The Right Way to Regulate Electric Scooters

As dockless shared-mobility devices spread nationwide, so do the risks of accident and injury. Here’s why more federal safety oversight is needed.
Scooters: All fun and games until the brakes give out.
Scooters: All fun and games until the brakes give out.Jeff Chiu/AP

In April, Lyft, the owner of the largest bikeshare operator in the U.S., pulled its fleet of pedal-assist electric bikes off the streets in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Users had reported excessive braking force on the front wheel, creating the risk of tossing them over the handlebars.

Lyft’s recall was widely reported, but under-emphasized was the fact that it was entirely voluntary and self-enforced: The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the primary bicycle safety regulator in the U.S., was nowhere to be seen. The absence of coordination by any governmental agency on these types of corrective actions is worrisome, because as new mobility devices emerge, so will new safety risks. E-scooters, whose popularity has exploded in the last 18 months, may be particularly prone to injuring their riders in crashes.