Planning to scoot home from the bar (or from work at the bar)? If you’re coming from downtown Detroit on a weekend night, you’ll have to make other travel arrangements.
The City of Detroit has introduced a curfew that renders rentable electric scooters unusable between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights in Detroit’s Central Business District (bordered by the Lodge, I-75, I-375 and the Detroit River). The change, highlighted by Twitter user @DScootz, was announced by the Detroit Police Department last weekend and made with the cooperation of scooter operators, who will remotely shut down their fleets during the restricted hours, confined to the affected area.
“We see the same trends in Detroit as in other major cities with scooter accidents and close calls,” DPD spokesman Rudy Harper wrote in an email. “We know some of those accidents are not reported to authorities. As you know, Detroit is the entertainment hub of the region, and on weekends we see an increase in vehicle and pedestrian traffic. This is about safety for all.”
DPD outlined the changes during a press conference along with other efforts in response to recurring summer issues. (The weekend prior, five people were shot downtown, the Detroit News reported.) Their response includes more patrols in Greektown, drag racing restrictions and enforcement of youth curfews: for 16- and 17-year-olds, 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Friday and 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Saturday; for youth ages 15 or younger, 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day, according to the News.
The City has not determined how long the scooter curfew will remain in effect.
“These restrictions are incompatible with the City’s mobility goals of reducing car traffic and helping people more safely and affordably move around downtown,” said LeAaron Foley, director of government affairs for Lime, one of the scooter companies operating in Detroit. “We are committed to the safety of residents and visitors and hope to identify more long-term solutions concerning nightlife that will not cause Detroiters to lose mobility options.”
Foley said Lime users who start rides before the curfew will be able to complete their trips, but the scooters won’t restart in the curfew zone.
Lime is one of five companies – others being Bird, Spin, Superpedestrian (which operates LINK scooters) and Boaz Bikes – that run Detroit e-scooter share programs, in which people use a phone app to find and immediately rent nearby scooters, usually for a few bucks a ride.
Spin and Boaz did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but Bird users who are mid-ride at 9 p.m. will get a notification that the curfew is in effect, and their scooter’s speed will be remotely reduced to 1 mile per hour to encourage them to end their ride. People who travel into the Central Business District after the curfew will also have their speed reduced once they’re in the restricted zone.
“Shared e-scooters are a critical, eco-friendly transportation alternative for many Detroit residents, including those who rely on the service to get around the Central Business District in the evening, essential workers, those who don’t own a car and those who don’t feel safe on public transit,” Sam Cooper, senior director of government partnerships at Bird, wrote in an email. “We are confident that we’ll be able to work with the city to find an alternative to this temporary curfew to ensure safety while also providing access to micro mobility.”
Superpedestrian said its scooters will have in-app notifications on the weekends to let riders know about the restriction. After curfew, scooter motors will stop operating and riders “will be slowed to a safe stop.”
“Whenever possible, we try to encourage the use of slow-ride zones, rather than no-ride zones, in order to preserve access while mitigating poor rider behavior,” wrote spokeswoman Jamie Perkins. “Poor visibility and intoxicated driving are two factors that increase crash risk at night, not just for scooter riders but for all road users.”
Scooters have sparked plenty of strong reactions since their Detroit debut in 2018 – some see them as a win for entertainment and recreation; some as a valuable “last-mile” option to address public transit gaps; some as an intrusion from outsiders; some as a dangerous nuisance. There were enough injuries among local riders that hospitals were noticing the trend in 2019, though a year earlier, Mayor Mike Duggan championed the new scooters and dismissed reports of serious scooter injuries as “such BS.”
A variety of similar restrictions have been rolled out in other cities. In 2019, Atlanta enacted a scooter curfew after four riders were hit and killed by drivers, though some transit advocates in the city argued restricting scooters does little to reduce car crashes and traffic deaths generally. In the last few months, Memphis, St. Louis and Cincinnati have also put curfews in place.