Re: Comments on H3126/S2069 An Act Relative to Mobile Carry Devices

Re: Comments on H3126/S2069 An Act Relative to Mobile Carry Devices

March 28, 2019

Joint Committee on Transportation
Joseph A. Boncore, Senate Chair
State House, Room 112
Boston, MA 02133

Joint Committee on Transportation
William Straus, House Chair
State House, Room 134
Boston, MA 02133

Re: Comments on H3126/S2069 An Act Relative to Mobile Carry Devices

Dear Chairman Boncore and Chairman Straus,

WalkBoston is Massachusetts’ main pedestrian advocacy organization, working to make walking safer and easier in Massachusetts to encourage better health, a cleaner environment and more vibrant communities. LivableStreets Alliance advocates for innovative and equitable transportation solutions that create safe, affordable and convenient options for everyone in Metro Boston.  We write to provide the Committee with our comments on H3126/S2069, “An act relative to mobile carry devices.”

If we are to continue to build more livable cities and towns across Massachusetts, we must ensure the sidewalks are made for people of all ages and abilities. A 90-lb device that can carry up to 45-lbs of goods traveling at 12.5 miles per hour does not belong on the sidewalk, and instead should be in the street.

At a high level, we are also concerned that these regulations could open the door to the privatization of the public way: our sidewalks. The most sought-after space in our cities is at the curb. Cities on the West Coast continue to grapple with transportation technology issues a few months in advance of us, including the testing of autonomous delivery robots. The latest example we’ve heard from Walk San Francisco includes a proposal from a tech food delivery company to use robots to continuously operate on a sidewalk route to pick up multiple orders from a store and deliver them 2-3 blocks away to a waiting delivery driver in a car.

This legislation leaves many questions:

  • The language “primarily for transporting personal property,” and “primarily designed to remain within 25 ft of personal property owner” both indicate that there would be other uses.
  • “Personal property owner is actively monitoring navigation and operation” seems to indicate that a device could operate autonomously or via remote control as long as it was under the auspices of the owner. There are rigorous testing and reporting requirements for autonomous vehicles to use streets in the city of Boston; autonomous vehicles should not be allowed on sidewalks without similar care and attention.
  • The language “a mobile carrying device has the rights and obligations applicable to a pedestrian” will give more legal protection in a crosswalk to a 90-lb device than to a person using a bike or scooter.

We appreciate the opportunity to comment, and would be happy to work with any proponent to offer feedback.

Thank you,

Brendan Kearney
Communications Director, WalkBoston

Stacy Thompson
Executive Director, LivableStreets Alliance

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