California has been at the forefront of the shared micromobility movement and transportation innovation for years -- yet the California State Legislature is considering a bill as soon as next week that has the potential to destroy micromobility in the state entirely.
Today, micromobility devices like bikes and scooters offer a mode of transportation that are essential to people across the state, from commuters to our most vulnerable and underserved communities. They replace tens of millions of car trips, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our state, and provide a reliable, low-cost form of transportation for communities in California. These services have proved invaluable to essential workers and car-free households during the pandemic and should continue to be available well into the future.
Regardless of its intent, Assembly Bill 1286 is an example of over-regulation that would create new rules so onerous that micromobility operators may no longer be able to operate in California, creating a major setback to the state's pioneering climate and equity goals.
This bill doesn't just impact newer micromobility like electric bikes and scooters, but extends to traditional, city-sponsored bike share programs as well, including the long running Bay Wheels system in the Bay Area and Metro Bike Share in Los Angeles. As our state grapples with so many pressing issues, including the economic and climate crisis, why is the legislature threatening our most sustainable and lowest cost transportation options?
First and foremost, this bill prohibits micromobility operators from using waivers of liability -- the same waivers everyone signs when renting a care or taking a yoga class. No other industry is subject to a waiver provision such as the one proposed by this bill. By gratuitously singling out micromobility operators, the legislature is opening the door to unnecessary litigation, and operators have made clear they will likely have to leave California if they are not able to use these waivers. Our cities will be harmed in the process, as waivers shield cities from frivolous lawsuits as well. California law already holds operators accountable and responsible for faulty devices to rightfully protect consumers, so there is simply no need to pursue these changes.
During this pandemic, people have had to find new ways of safely moving around our cities in an affordable way while observing public health guidelines.
Countless individuals who had never used a bike, e-bike, or scooter, have taken their first trip during this time and were introduced to the benefits of car-free, socially distant travel. Moreover, many of the shared bike and scooter operators launched essential worker programs during this crisis, making sure essential workers could, at no cost, safely travel between their homes and work.
If AB1286 moves forward all this progress may vanish.
As California faces a precarious future for public transit funding and the impacts of climate change, now is not the time to be further reducing the number of affordable and reliable transportation options. These onerous provisions preemptively limit local authorities to respond to local needs and will prohibit cities from exploring new shared micromobility services for their communities.
Right now, we'd like our legislature to stay focused on addressing the serious issues stemming from COVID-19 and allow shared micromobility options to continue to grow and thrive across California cities.
Cynthia Rose is the director of Santa Monica Spoke; Colin Parent is executive director of Circulate San Diego; Damian Kevitt is the Executive Director of Streets Are For Everyone; Michael Schneider is founder of Streets for All.