In the States

The Scooter Invasion Is Here


Virtually out of nowhere and literally overnight, electric scooters have appeared on downtown sidewalks in cities across the United States, and they continue to spread at an astonishing rate. It’s a development that has surprised both the public and private sectors and, as local governments are scrambling now to determine how to handle the onslaught, the commercial real estate industry also is scrambling to answer the question: Are electric scooters a benefit to the community or a nuisance?

There’s no question that this is a significant transformation. The term “micromobility” reflects a trend that began with bikeshare programs, accelerated with dockless bike services and then exploded with the proliferation of electric scooters (or e-scooters). While shared micromobility trips have been on the rise for several years, the e-scooter industry emerged as a force only since 2017. According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), 85,000 e-scooters now inhabit American streets in approximately 100 cities. When combined with bikeshare services, micromobility accounted for an eye-popping 84 million trips in 2018. This represents nothing less than a revolution in U.S. transportation.

E-scooter services are extremely easy to use, thanks to technological advances, and they’ve proven to be popular as a fun, convenient, affordable option for short trips. There have been growing pains in many communities, however, as some scooter companies employed an “ask for forgiveness later” strategy—blanketing cities with scooters prior to holding discussions with local governments or other stakeholders. The results sometimes have included considerable confusion and serious safety concerns.


As e-scooters proliferate, reactions from the commercial real estate industry have covered the full range of possibilities. One BOMA local association president, Jay Dansbury, RPA, of BOMA/Nashville with Hines, holds a completely negative view: “I call them urban litter. They’re a complete nuisance.”

Others have a different impression. Matthew Hargrove, senior vice president of Government Affairs with the California Business Properties Association, which advocates on behalf of BOMA California, grudgingly came to appreciate Sacramento’s e-scooters program. “I was nervous about the launch of the scooter program, but those fears haven’t materialized,” Hargrove says. “I find the scooters extremely useful as I cruise around the downtown core. This is a trend that’s only increasing in popularity, so actively managing the devices—just like you would cars coming onto your property—is a smarter approach than not planning for them and seeing complaints from tenants.”


According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), 85,000 e-scooters now inhabit American streets in approximately 100 cities.


Scooters are pervasive in downtown Washington, D.C., and Nicola Whiteman, Esq., senior vice president of Government Affairs at BOMA/Metropolitan Washington (AOBA), has conflicting feelings. “The scooters represent another transportation option, and this opens up opportunities,” she explains. “However, challenges remain, especially relating to where scooters are placed or discarded. Scooters parked near building entrances or in alleys blocking traffic or trash collection are just a few of the challenges property managers encounter.”


BOMA International has released a policy brief to assist the commercial real estate industry in navigating the tricky terrain of e-scooters, aimed particularly at helping to start discussions where none have yet happened. The white paper lays out the pros and cons of the scooter phenomenon, from its affordability and environmental benefits to its questionable safety record and unclear liability situation. The paper also suggests some next steps, regardless of whether you love e-scooters, hate them or haven’t yet decided:

  • Support sensible state and local regulations. Determine whether a property needs to have an e-scooter policy.
  • Solicit feedback from the broader commercial real estate industry.
  • Engage with the scooter companies.

Download the policy brief on the State and Local Advocacy webpage on the BOMA International website, and share your e-scooter stories and questions with BOMA International’s Manager of State and Local Affairs Maria Balzer-Pisciotta.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2019 issue of BOMA Magazine.