A state bill may soon roll right over San Francisco’s e-scooter and bikeshare regulations.
The legislation, which was approved Wednesday by the state Assembly Wednesday 74-1, has local officials fuming and transit experts are warning that low-income communities may lose access to bikeshare and e-scooter service.
Assembly Bill 1112, authored by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), aims to enshrine regulations for “micro-mobility” rental services in state transportation code. Right now, California cities have been responding in an ad-hoc manner, developing their own rules for electric scooters, shared bikes, shared electric bikes, and other wheeled-rental services.
But critics say the bill is an attempt by micro-mobility companies to circumvent what they see as overly-restrictive local laws. An earlier version of the bill would have weakened cities’ ability to collect data on how micro-mobility services operate, and the current version may pre-empt cities from requiring those services to operate in low-income areas called “communities of concern.”
Uber and e-scooter company Bird are among the listed supporters of AB 1112.
“While a handful of corporations have been willing to work with cities and counties in deploying this technology in a responsible manner, a number of corporations have been running afoul of local regulation and law enforcement as companies skirt local laws to compete for market share,” wrote the League of California Cities, in opposition to the bill. “Unfortunately, AB 1112’s elimination of local authority in this space would put the public’s safety, health, and welfare at risk.”
San Francisco’s state representatives, Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu, both voted for the bill. The pair wrote a joint statement to the San Francisco Examiner:
“AB 1112’s intent is to ensure that local jurisdictions create a regulatory structure for shared mobility platforms and solicit feedback from the public before permitting those platforms to operate, and we support that intent,” Ting and Chiu said, in a statement. “The bill’s author, Assemblymember Friedman, assured us that her intent was not to override comprehensive local programs like San Francisco’s, and we will be working with her to address San Francisco’s concerns in future amendments.”
But local transit experts disagree with our elected representatives. The SFMTA, which regulates e-scooters and bikeshare in San Francisco, said the bill in its current form would likely dismantle all of its hard-won regulations — which were only enacted after The City of San Francisco collectively signaled outrage against scofflaw e-scooter companies Bird, Lime and Spin, and City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent them packing.
“Our shared scooter pilot program is designed to achieve safety, accessibility, and equity goals through the cap on allowable devices, lock-to requirements, rebalancing requirements and low-income programs,” SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said in a statement. “These requirements would all likely be prohibited if the bill passed in its current form.”
Rose said the bill would also “hinder our ability to effectively manage and evaluate the program” by curtailing the data SFMTA could obtain from e-scooter and bikeshare companies.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who is also the chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, expressed outrage that Chiu and Ting supported AB 1112.
“I am extremely disappointed to hear that San Francisco’s Assembly delegation voted for the measure,” Peskin said. “This is shocking. I think the vast majority of San Franciscans appreciate the responsible ways the Board of Supervisors and mayor have gone to regulating the excesses of some of these ‘go-fast-and-break-things’ arrogant companies that have used San Franciscans as guinea pigs.”
State Sen. Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco and is considered a leader in transportation issues, told the Examiner he has not yet analyzed the bill and is waiting for it to reach the senate to take a position.
Dave Snyder, director of CalBike, the statewide bicycle advocacy organization, told the Examiner his group also opposes the measure.
AB 1112 still “ties cities hands too much,” Snyder said. “We want cities to be able to regulate scooters to serve the public good, especially to make sure they serve disadvantaged communities, in addition to wealthier, more advantaged communities.”
“This is just another attempt for Bird to give San Francisco and every other crowded city in California the middle finger,” Peskin said. Or, he added, “‘the bird.’”