Berkeley City Council approves permit program for electric micromobility

photo of a bike rack
William Webster/Staff
Berkeley City Council approved the Shared Electric Micromobility Permit Program on Tuesday, enabling private operators to provide micromobility devices for public use in the city of Berkeley.

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Berkeley City Council approved a permit program for transportation companies to provide the city with electric micromobility options Tuesday.

These options include electric scooters and electric bicycles, according to the City Council’s report.

“The Shared Electric Micromobility Permit Program would enable private operators to make shared electric devices … available to the public in Berkeley,” the report stated. “The program is anticipated to complement the City’s current station-based bike sharing network by providing a shared mobility option that extends into areas of Berkeley not served by a bike share station.”

The report added that private operators seeking to apply for a city permit must pay a $1,500 application fee. Operator who receive a permit will be required to pay a $15,000 annual permit fee and an additional $64 per electric micromobility device deployed.

According to Mayor Jesse Arreguín, the city previously looked into ways to “appropriately regulate” electric micromobility vehicles in 2018, but a lawsuit put the program on pause. Arreguín added that because the lawsuit was settled in spring of this year, the city continued with the program.

Arreguín also said there would be regulations for both operators and users. For example, operators must distribute devices equally throughout the city, while riders are not allowed to ride on sidewalks.

“This program is critical in advancing our climate goals by adding yet another tool that is effective at reducing our dependency on cars,” Arreguín said in an email.

Arreguín was not alone in touting the potential cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.

Ben Gerhardstein, co-founder of Walk Bike Berkeley, an organization aimed at encouraging people to walk and bike around the city, expressed enthusiasm for the program, citing its potential environmental benefits.

“Evidence from a multicity study of micromobility programs shows that almost half of trips taken by shared micromobility replace car trips,” Gerhardstein said. “The fewer car trips, the more safe our roads get and the more we go towards meeting our climate goals. I’m thrilled that City Council adopted this program unanimously.”

Gerhardstein added the benefits of the program would depend on how well the electric micromobility options are maintained and distributed across the city. Based on how people in Berkeley currently travel, Gerhardstein is optimistic.

Berkeley City Councilmember Rigel Robinson thanked the city’s staff for designing a system which would increase equitable access to transportation options.

“Thank you to our mobility advocates for your passion & your patience, and thank you to our staff for learning from the mistakes of the early days of scooters and designing a program that puts equity and accessibility first,” Robinson said in a tweet. “Let’s roll!”

Contact Christopher Ying and Dima Aboukasm at [email protected].