Embracing Innovation in Micromobility Transportation

Testimony before the Maryland House Committee on Environment and Transportation

Dear Chair Barve, Vice Chair Stein, and members of the House Committee on Environment and Transportation:

My name is Jennifer Huddleston and I am a research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. My research focuses on the intersections of technology and law. Thank you for the opportunity today to provide informational testimony regarding HB 748 (introduced on February 8, 2019) and the future of micromobility.

Micromobility is commonly understood as the various portable modes of transportation, typically enabled by apps, that provide short-distance movement. A number of different devices including dockless bikes and e-scooters are the most common, but the category also includes other options like dockless mopeds and tricycle-like electric cars.

In the transportation sector, state and local governments have often taken the lead by implementing policies that encourage entrepreneurs to pursue solutions to transportation problems and create safer, cleaner, and more enjoyable transportation options. As policymakers continue this tradition, they must be cautious not to create rules that foreclose future innovation.

Most recently, micromobility options, including electric scooters and bicycles, have been solving the “last mile” problem in cities around the country. (This problem is the gap between a rider’s final destination and the area served by traditional public transit options such as buses and trains.) Yet some jurisdictions have introduced regulations that send the message to transportation innovators to focus their talents elsewhere. As discussed in my previous work, including the attached piece, states should consider the following policy elements when looking to encourage transportation innovation and welcoming micromobility:

  • Provide clarity about the legality of such devices state wide.

  • Ensure that definitions are flexible and adaptive to accommodate various future possibilities of micromobility innovation.

  • Pursue education as appropriate for pedestrians, micromobility riders, and drivers to encourage a positive and safe experience while embracing a multimodal transportation future.

The most innovation-friendly approach would provide a broad definition for this sort of means of transportation in order to allow the development of new micromobility options without requiring regulatory updates from policymakers. Such a governance approach would encourage innovators to think even more creatively and would send a clear message to the public that the state legislature is inclined to embrace in the future all potential solutions in the area of transportation.