Within the last year, companies such as Lime and Bird have brought thousands of electric scooters to California, including locally in San José. E-scooters offer an exciting new mode of travel that could help reduce car usage, but the speed of implementation and lack of norms surrounding the use of scooters have prompted safety concerns for people riding, biking, and walking. As numerous e-scooters have appeared as a new form of transportation, regulating their use proves challenging for cities. Now, the California state legislature has begun to consider new laws regarding scooters as well.
This spring, Assemblymember Heath Flora introduced a bill to change regulations on scooters. The bill, AB 2989, initially loosened numerous regulations on e-scooters, leading to some concerns about safety. Riding electric scooters on sidewalks would have been legalized and the maximum allowed top speed would have increased from 15 to 20 miles per hour. Motors three times as powerful as the current maximum would have been permitted. Adults would not be required to wear a helmet while riding a scooter. Pedestrian advocacy groups and the cities of Santa Monica and San Francisco opposed the bill.
AB 2989 passed the Assembly almost unanimously but the current version of the bill, now under consideration by the Senate, has been amended in response to the opposition. Now, the bill only removes the requirement for adults to wear helmets while riding scooters. The current bill will no longer change restrictions on speed, motor power, or sidewalk usage, which transforms the bill from a broad package of pro-scooter law changes to a simple change in helmet laws.
In order to become law, AB 2989 must pass the Senate, go back to the Assembly to be passed with the Senate’s revisions, and be signed by the Governor. Throughout the process, the bill could still be further amended materially with little notice. Given its important implications for mobility and safety, AB 2989 is one to watch. Keep checking California Bicycle Coalition’s legislative watch for updates. You can also check out City of San Jose’s resource page for frequently asked questions about bike and e-shooter share. They are in the process of developing regulations around dockless bike share and e-scooters. Stay tuned as that progresses in San Jose and other cities.