Two women ride Lime dockless electric scooters along the sidewalk on Market Street on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

State bill taking aim at city bikeshare, scooter regulations stalls in Senate

A proposed state law aimed at dismantling local e-scooter and e-bike regulations just got a flat tire.

Assembly Bill 1112, authored by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), has sputtered to a stop in the state Senate along with some other shared mobility-related bills after it met with growing opposition from California cities.

The legislation is now a “two-year bill,” meaning Friedman will try to float a new version of the bill next session. Her office said it will continue to work on refining its language so all parties’ needs are met.

“I am relieved this did not get rubber-stamped by the state legislature,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, a staunch local opponent of AB 1112 and chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority Board.

The bill would have preempted local “shared mobility” regulations by setting up a statewide framework, dictating the trip-level and usage data cities are able to obtain from e-scooter, e-bike and other e-transit rental companies, among other things.

AB 1112’s major backers include e-scooter company Bird as well as ride-hail giants Lyft and Uber, both of which are vying to offer e-bikes for rent in San Francisco in the “bikeshare” industry.

All three companies have faced some difficulty operating in The City after the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, City Attorney’s Office and Board of Supervisors hit them with new regulations, essentially slowing down the rollout of all such devices.

“Under existing law, local authorities have broad discretion to regulate shared mobility,” Friedman’s office wrote in a summary of the bill. However, “some providers claim that the terms to which they are subjected are unreasonable, undercut their profitability, or are so onerous that they have (the) effect of banning shared mobility devices.”

In a bid to circumvent that opposition, some San Francisco officials charge, those companies supported AB 1112, which would have brought a state-backed hammer down on local regulations.

But cities fought back.

In April, only three entities, California Walks, Consumer Attorney of California, and the League of California Cities were listed in opposition to the bill.

By June, that list had grown to roughly 30 parties — including major California cities from Oakland and San Francisco to Los Angeles and Anaheim. SFMTA joined the fray as well, along with transportation departments up and down the golden state.

Peskin said the bill’s defeat this session means Bird has to come to the table with San Francisco.

“It’s time for Bird to act like mature adults,” Peskin said. “Instead of trying to pre-empty local government, they should work with local government.”

Bird is edging its way into San Francisco. The company, which was rejected for an e-scooter permit in its own right, has acquired local e-scooter and moped rental company Scoot, which has a permit to operate in The City granted by SFMTA.

While Scoot will retain its management, which has a long-standing good relationship with SFMTA, Bird will still benefit from that permit.

Some parties besides shared mobility operators had problems with California cities’ opposition. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit aiming to protect civil liberties, hoped the bill would prevent cities from disclosing personal trip data of e-scooter and e-bike renters. Even without names attached, EFF argued, it is easy to identify who took individual trips and track a person’s movements.

But in June, the state Senate Committee on Transportation voiced its own concerns with AB 1112.

In particular, the committee questioned AB 1112’s restrictions on cities’ ability to require shared mobility companies operate in what are called “communities of concern.” Essentially, this is a requirement cities use to ensure poor people and minorities have access to services. As written, AB 1112 would have removed this option.

The committee also expressed concern AB 1112 would undermine local authorities’ ability to regulate speed limits for shared mobility services.

“It is unclear why these two specific aspects of shared mobility device regulation should be singled out for state regulation while all other specifics are left up to local authorities,” the senate transportation committee wrote in its evaluation of the bill.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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