Electric scooters from sharing companies like Bird and Lime have become very popular recently in San Jose, California. Though the companies’ goal is to deliver a convenient and eco-friendly mode of transportation for urban dwellers, many incidents and complaints from users and those who have come into contact with the devices claim that the scooters cause more trouble than their benefits can make up for. Reports of pedestrians dodging units on sidewalks, injuries, and abandoned scooters blocking storefronts, have prompted city officials to take action.
After several delays, the San Jose City Council finally passed a resolution in January aimed at controlling scooters. The city does not want to impede any benefits that the scooters may have, but the move is necessary to protect both citizens and businesses from the dangers they can cause.
Unlike some other cities throughout California, San Jose does not want to limit the number of e-scooter companies operating within the city limits. However, scooter sharing companies who want to operate within city limits must follow new rules. Companies must obtain a permit, pay the application fee of $2500, and pay $124 per device each year to remain in operation. Scooter companies will also have to get proper insurance to protect the city from any potential legal claims.
Under the new ordinance, the state will also require scooter companies to limit the speeds of their scooters to 12 miles per hour. The stipulation comes after reports from pedestrians about near misses with speeding riders. Lastly, the city and scooter sharing companies will have to work together to keep scooters off sidewalks.
State law already prohibits the use of motorized scooters on sidewalks. Due to their classification, electric scooters should operate on the roadways only. This does not stop users from operating the units in pedestrian areas, however, which could lead to dangerous situations. To combat the use of scooters on sidewalks, the mayor of San Jose, Sam Liccardo, suggested using geofencing technology, which works by creating virtual perimeters for the units.
Other stipulations regarding scooter operation exist. To remain on San Jose streets in the future, sharing companies will also have to:
The ordinance goes into effect in February. Ideally, it will change the behavior of both the riders and the companies who distribute the units. Currently, four companies operate and manage e-scooters and bikes in San Jose, comprising 2,000 units. Under the new ordinance, it is unclear how many of the companies will remain. Companies must be able to pay the fees necessary to operate within the city limits.
Failure to abide by the new state rules set by the ordinance comes with the possibility of fines starting in February – the operators could face initial fines of $100, and $500 for repeat offenses. If disregard for the ordinance continues, companies could see the revocation of permits or mandatory reduction in fleet size.
The city says it is not interested in banishing dockless scooters or bikes from the downtown area or beyond. It recognizes that sharing companies have the potential to provide eco-friendly and affordable transportation to all citizens within the city. On the other hand, some regulation of the units is necessary to control the behavior of users and prevent injury.