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Berkeley Expands Public Transportation With Scooter Program

The Berkeley City Council approved a set of regulations for the micromobility industry in Berkeley on September 28, meaning that electric bikes and scooter companies could soon legally distribute these electric transportation options in Berkeley. 

On July 10, 2018, the city council approved a referral to the city manager to consider allowing electric scooter companies to distribute electric scooters in Berkeley.

Berkeley City Council proposed a Terms and Conditions policy for a Shared Electric Scooter Pilot Franchise in December of 2018 that would make rules for the electric bike and scooter companies. The city then requested proposals in January 2019 to solicit Shared Electric Scooters Pilot Franchise applications. 

Before the city council could accept applicants for this franchise, the City Attorney’s office was informed of several class action lawsuits in California. These lawsuits were filed against several cities alleging disability accessibility impact from electric scooters permitted in their cities. When Oakland was also sued due to accessibility for those with disabilities, Berkeley postponed the franchise pending the outcome of legal restrictions or settlements.

The Oakland lawsuit was resolved in April 2021, and the settlement agreement was finalized and incorporated into the proposed Shared Electric Micromobility Permit Program.

The Shared Electric Micromobility Permit Program would allow operators (electric scooter and bike companies) to distribute their products and make them available to the public in Berkeley. Permits for the program would be issued annually, and up to 3 different companies will be allowed to distribute their products throughout Berkeley.

The Berkeley City Council also believes this project will help them achieve their goal of reducing 80 percent of carbon emissions. 

“Increasing the number of Berkeley residents and visitors who utilize shared electric scooters and bicycles, as an alternative to  single-occupant automobile travel, will decrease greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dee Williams-Ridley, Berkeley City Manager.

Williams-Ridley was also concerned about the impact it would have to not implement legalizations for electric bikes and scooters.

“By not having a Shared Electric Micromobility Permit Program, Berkeley may potentially have a more difficult time in meeting its Climate Action Plan targets,” said Williams-Ridley.

This project will involve fees, which will be paid by private companies wishing to operate bike or scooter sharing programs in Berkeley. Fees include an application fee of $1,500, an annual permit fee of $15,000, and a fee of $64 per mobility device. These fees will contribute to a Public Works General Fund. 

With the implementation of the Shared Electric Micromobility Permit Program, many Berkeley High School (BHS) students will be able to make their school commutes via electric bicycles or scooters.

Although this program would allow students to go to and from school, California law states that riders of electric bikes or scooters must be 16 years or older, and have a driver’s license, or a permit. These restrictions do narrow the accessibility to many BHS students; however, for the students who qualify to ride electric scooters or bikes, it can allow them to minimize the greenhouse gas emissions, while commuting to and from school.

 With the approval of the regulations and program, it is possible that eligible BHS students may be able to use electric scooters or bikes as soon as November.

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