Berkeley welcomes electric scooter and bike rental launch

photo of electric scooter
Sunny Shen/Senior Staff
Micromobility firms will soon launch electric scooters and bicycle rentals in Berkeley.

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Micromobility firms including Superpedestrian and Veoride are set to launch their electric scooter and bike rental services to the public Thursday, following Berkeley City Council’s approval of the Shared Electric Micromobility Permit Program.

The rentals provide environmentally sound alternatives to Berkeley residents taking the bus, purchasing expensive ride-shares or driving short distances.

“Electric scooters and bicycles are an effective way at completing the last mile of people’s journeys, helping people (commute) from their homes to a major transit hub,” said Stefan Elgstrand, spokesperson for Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, in an email.

City regulations prohibit users from riding vehicles on sidewalks and require companies to display signs reading “No Riding On Sidewalks” in large print on every rental they install.

The city’s permit program allows up to three companies to apply to offer micromobility rentals, with no limit to the number of vehicles they deploy if accepted.

“The permit program was created after extensive community and stakeholder outreach, so the terms and conditions are reflective of the community’s needs to promote safe and accessible transportation,” Elgstrand said in an email.

Along with increased accessibility, a Berkeley City Council memo noted that the rentals are climate-friendly.

By providing an option besides “single-occupant automobile travel,” the memo emphasized that the rentals support the city’s Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below the level from the year 2000 by 2050.

Furthermore, the memo said 50% of the devices must be deployed in “equity priority areas,” and that operators will provide more accessible devices, such as sit scooters, to maximize accessibility.

Veoride has a permit to launch up to 500 of its scooters, while Superpedestrian will provide up to 250 of its Link scooters. Likewise, Spin, a third company, is expected to offer 400 scooters and 100 electric bikes later this month, according to the memo.

“That first period as these were emerging in cities across the country was mayhem,” said Councilmember Rigel Robinson in a Berkeleyside article. “It is good to have let that mayhem unfold and learn from that — learn from the mistakes operators made, learn from the mistakes cities made and instate a really thoughtful program that hits the challenges head-on.”

Unpermitted rental scooters and bikes from companies first appeared dockless in Berkeley in 2018, according to the Berkeleyside article. The article added that city officials began working on regulations for micromobility companies soon after but delayed the process following a 2019 lawsuit against the city of Oakland alleging that disorganized scooter parking made navigating sidewalks unsafe for people with mobility impairments.

City officials returned to completing the permit program once the lawsuit was settled in the spring, the Berkeleyside article noted.

Contact Phoebe Chen at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @ph0ebechen.