E-scooters began flooding Atlanta sidewalks in spring 2018. Cheap and easy to use, they were frequently seen zipping around downtown, Midtown or the BeltLine — but with no protected lanes for riders and speeds that topped out around 20 miles per hour, it didn’t take long for accidents and even fatalities to occur.
Atlanta, like many other cities, struggled to figure out how to regulate e-scooters. In 2019, the city began requiring scooter companies to file for permits and imposed a ban on using the devices on sidewalks or at night. Eventually, some companies began pulling their scooters out of Atlanta as competition increased.
Then the pandemic hit. The city initially ordered remaining scooter companies off the streets, deeming them a non-essential business amid the shelter-in-place order. Now that they’ve returned, says Deirdre Oakley, a professor in the Department of Sociology, “we’re starting to see some changes in rider habits. The big question is: How can micro-scale transportation options like scooters and e-bikes become more useful to more people?”
To answer that question, Georgia State’s Urban Studies Institute recently introduced the Micromobility Lab, the first of its kind in the U.S. An interdisciplinary research hub, the lab was created to inform micromobility transportation policies in metropolitan regions and provide technical assistance for partners, including the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, the Atlanta Regional Commission, MARTA, the Atlanta Department of Transportation and MARTA Army.
“The Georgia State campus is an ideal laboratory to study these things,” says Chris Wyczalkowski, MARTA’s manager of research and analysis and an affiliate faculty member with the Urban Studies Institute. “If you look at a map, we are surrounded by transportation amenities, including MARTA stations, bus stops, e-scooters, Georgia State shuttles and rideshares. It’s all here.”