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Veto AB 371. California needs shared bikes and scooters to fight the climate crisis – Streetsblog California

Throughout the pandemic, California’s shared bike and scooter programs have served as a lifeline for residents to get safely to work, school and appointments. It is disappointing that California state legislators recently passed a draconian bill that could destroy these necessary programs.

The bill, AB 371, would make operators of shared micromobility programs — that is, programs for small wheeled vehicles like bicycles and scooters — solely liable for negligent or reckless behavior by cyclists, creating a legal precedent that does not exist in any other industry.

Asking operators to assume the liability risks associated with the negligence of their passengers sets a staggering legal precedent. Car manufacturers, car rental companies – even arms manufacturers – are not required to cover the negligence of their customers. (When you rent a car, for example, you cover the cost of insurance.) Why would the state choose to set such an extreme precedent on zero-emission transportation options, when it doesn’t do the same? something for an industry with a proven track record of devastating public health risks?

For now, the bill exempts shared bikes and e-bikes, but would still mandate unprecedented liability insurance for shared scooters and other types of micromobility. Make no mistake: this would still pose a serious threat to cycling in California. A simple amendment at some point could easily extend the devastating insurance requirement to shared bikes, threatening large programs like the Bay Area’s Bay Wheels system and smaller nonprofit bike-sharing programs. Clearly the author and co-authors had bikes in their sights with earlier versions of Bill, so we know that’s a possibility.

The precedent created by these extreme insurance requirements would also open the door to insurance requirements for private bicycles and scooters. Why should insurance be compulsory for a shared bike or scooter, when it is not for a privately owned bike – which theoretically poses the same safety risk on the street? There is no doubt that this is simply the first step towards extending insurance requirements to all micromobility options. Additionally, anti-cycling lawmakers in other states will surely seize on AB 371, should it become law, to push for the same irrational insurance requirements in their states.

Here’s why this bill has the potential to end California’s shared micromobility programs: The costs to operators of providing it are still largely unknown, posing an existential risk to all micromobility, but especially small ones. non-profit programs. These extreme insurance requirements would certainly add costs that would make it even harder for micromobility operators to serve cities fairly and affordably, especially in low-income neighborhoods. It’s no exaggeration to say that the costs of this insurance requirement will bankrupt many micromobility providers, reducing connectivity for responsible users with urgent transportation needs. That is why the cities of Santa Monica, Oakland, San Jose and others oppose this bill.

California needs zero-emission shared bikes and scooters to meet Governor Newsom’s ambitious 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. In an era of wildfires, rising levels of sea ​​and warming temperatures are a constant threat to our state, the governor should support programs that replace car rides, rather than saddle operators with an array of costs that could bankrupt them.

Ironically, the bill would do nothing to increase the safety of cyclists or pedestrians. Its insurance requirements only cover post-crash costs, and California already has some of the highest insurance limits in the country for shared bike and scooter operators. The operators’ existing insurance covers their liability for bodily injury and material damage to third parties.

Californians have relied on shared micromobility during the pandemic and it will remain an important tool for the governor’s efforts to reduce California’s emissions and reliance on fossil fuel vehicles. That’s why it makes sense that he vetoes AB 371.

Joy Massey is TransForm’s Interim Co-Executive Director and Program Manager for Mobility Hubs. Kevin Claxton is the interim executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition (CalBike).