What are the regulations about companies using public sidewalks for their products?

There are many examples of companies installing or placing their products on public sidewalks in order to make money. Scooters are in the news right now, but there are many other examples like bike sharing, newspaper boxes, and payphones. Are there any regulations that restrict what a company can put on a sidewalk? Do they have to pay any fees for the privilege, or are they just allowed to put as many things on the sidewalk as they like? For example, does the newspaper have to get permission to put a dispenser on the sidewalk?

Right now, it doesn’t seem like there is any restriction on scooters. The scooter companies are putting them wherever they think they’ll be profitable. What’s to stop all the scooter companies from clogging the sidewalks of profitable areas with scooters? The same with newspaper boxes. Some places have like 6-10 newspaper boxes. Are those companies getting permission or paying fees for installing their equipment on a sidewalk?

Regulations about sidewalk use are typically municipal matters, so there are as many answers to this question as there are municipalities. I’m sure that some have strict laws and some have zero laws. My particular town has ‘zones’ where different types of commerce are allowed in public areas regulated by time of day. There is no federal law preventing a municipality from saying that no unattended scooters are allowed in public areas or that all scooters must be placed in certain areas. I don’t know all of the state laws, but I would venture that they too largely leave such things up to the municipality.

WAG but I would imagine most places require permits or otherwise somehow asking permission, a mistake this company made earlier this year in Norfolk: Norfolk says no to scooters, impounds 560 and fines start-up Bird $93,000

Different article, not behind WP paywall: https://www.13newsnow.com/article/news/local/norfolk-virginia-beach-impound-hundreds-of-bird-scooters/291-600779885

In St. Louis scooters are regulated at least somewhat. There’s an ordinance says they have to be picked up from the streets and sidewalks overnight. The scooter companies send drivers to pick up them up (the scooters have some sort of GPS tracking unit) and charge them at their homes. The driver gets a bounty of something like $4-$5 per scooter.

You would need to reveal your location for anyone to give you the actual code, if that’s what you’re hoping for.

I think the newspaper boxes are allowed by the First Amendment. In some places, there are six or more boxes from various newspapers and that jumble can be ugly. I remember one affluent community that wanted to replace the newspaper-supplied boxes with a rack of identical ones, so they’d all look the same. As I remember this was shot down on First Amendment grounds.

I’m not wondering about my specific area. I’m just wondering in general.

It seems like businesses could easily abuse the practice if there aren’t regulations. For example, a newspaper box can also be an effective way to advertise for the newspaper. What’s to stop a newspaper company from putting several boxes on each corner only for the purposes of advertising? They may not care about actually selling any newspapers from it, but they may value the advertising effect for the amount of people who will see the ads on the side of the box.

Or maybe Uber would put “UBER SCOOTERS” all over the city for advertising purposes. They would be plastered with UBER signs for the advertising value.

It seems that if companies are using public sidewalks as virtual storefronts to make a profit, there needs to be some sort of limit placed on them or else they will take advantage of it. Like maybe Coke puts vending machines on every corner. If it’s free real estate, why not? They get advertising and maybe make a little bit from the vending aspect.

points at senoy’s response above

The “in general” answer is “it totally depends on the municipality.”

That’s fine. If you know how a municipality does it, I’d be interested to know. Do they require a permit? A fee? No regulation? How do the major cities deal with this? I’m sure little cities don’t have to worry as much, but how do major cities like Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, etc. prevent every inch of the sidewalk from being covered in newspaper boxes, scooters, bicycles, payphones, etc.

I HATE the scooters…I run a place on Euclid a 1/2 a block from Barnes-Jewish/Children’s…the are a freaking nuance and someone WILL have an accident and get severely injured soon. Luckily they are 1/2 a block from a hospital complex…Unluckily, it will take STLPD and EMS a half an hour to get to them.

Driving them on the street is ludicrous, driving them on the sidewalk is VERY annoying.

One thing that I found surprising with the scooters is that many cities did not have some sort of blanket ordinance in place which covered that situation. For example, most cities have sign ordinances which spell out what kinds of signs can be placed in the right of way, like sidewalks. For example, they may permit a store to place a sandwich board directly in front of their store (on-site), but not allow off-site signs. But with scooters, it didn’t seem like there was anything in place for that. I would expect there would be a blanket ordinance in place in most cities for companies wanting to use to the ROW for profit purposes. Even if they didn’t cover scooters, I would expect there would be ordinances that put restrictions on companies using the sidewalks as a way to make money.

And for the free speech about the newspaper, that’s hard to believe they got away with it. If they were giving the papers away for free, maybe I could understand it, but the paper is selling the newspapers. Even if the box itself doesn’t cover the cost of the paper, the paper still makes money from the ads sold.

So while I could see that the city would allow using the sidewalks for free speech issues, I would think that allowance would not pertain to for-profit enterprises.

We have “Bird” scooters in Ann Arbor. It’s supposedly illegal to operate them on our sidewalks here but nobody seems to care about enforcing that. Don’t know why.