Bay Area cities seek more regulation for electric scooters

Emma Drake/Staff

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The number of electric scooters in large cities is growing, prompting cities such as San Francisco and Berkeley to develop strategies to regulate this technology.

Scooters have many benefits for urban residents, according to an emailed statement to The Daily Californian from Lime, an electric bike and scooter company. The statement explained that this mode of transportation can help to reduce emissions, ease congestion and increase equity.

“Micromobility options like e-scooters are positively impacting people’s lives every day, providing them a solution for their daily transportation needs with an accessible and sustainable alternative to cars,” according to the email from Lime.

Cities have encountered issues with widespread use of electric scooters, however. In spring 2018, San Francisco instituted a temporary ban against electric scooters in response to safety concerns, according to a report by ABC News. San Francisco residents complained that electric scooters were being ridden on sidewalks illegally, endangering pedestrians. Electric scooters were also often left in inappropriate places around San Francisco, blocking sidewalks and driveways.

Following the ban, San Francisco opened applications for electric scooter companies to begin pilot programs, according to the ABC News report. In fall 2018, scooters were allowed on San Francisco’s streets once more, with more than 2,500 scooters from Lime, JUMP, Spin and Scoot operating in San Francisco.

Under the pilot programs, stronger regulations apply to electric scooters. Scooter companies must comply with the city’s limits on the number of scooters for use, share data with the city, educate riders about safety and provide scooters for low-income residents.

Additionally, Norman Yee, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, has recently proposed creating an office of emerging technology, which would oversee and regulate new technologies such as electric scooters, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Technology should serve the public’s best interests, not the other way around,” Yee said in a statement on his public Facebook page. “As a City, we must ensure that such technologies ultimately result in a net common good and that we evaluate the costs and benefits so that our residents, workers, and visitors are not unwittingly made guinea pigs of new tech.”

Similarly, electric scooters are currently not sanctioned in the city of Berkeley, according to Berkeleyside. In December 2018, Berkeley City Council voted to allow up to three electric scooter companies to operate in Berkeley.

Berkeley is in the process of accepting applications from scooter companies to begin pilot programs such as those underway in San Francisco, according to Stefan Elgstrand, spokesperson for Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s office.

In a statement, Lime said it is “committed to working with cities and universities to develop appropriate regulations that allow micromobility to thrive, while simultaneously meeting their transportation, sustainability and safety goals.”

Contact Alexandra Feldman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @a_p_feldman.