Thanks to CalBike and the “all-powerful bicycle lobby,” AB 371, the Kill Bike Share Bill, has halted its journey through the California legislature. The bill included a burdensome and unfair insurance requirement for bike and scooter sharing systems that would have ended shared micromobility in California. The bad news is that we might have to fight this fight all over again next year.
Kill Bike Share Bill could return in 2022
AB 371 isn’t technically dead — it is a two-year bill, which gives it another chance to pass the legislature in the 2022 legislative session.
A lot could happen between now and 2022. The bill’s author could decide not to bring it back, or he could revise it to remove the insurance requirement. CalBike will continue to work hard for one of those outcomes.
However, unprecedented bike share operator indemnity seems to be a zombie idea that just won’t die. CalBike and our allies succeeded in excising a similar insurance requirement from a bill in 2020, and yet it came back again in AB 371.
Contradictory California policies
California desperately needs more carbon-free transportation options to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. To further that goal, the state’s recently-announced Clean Mobility Opportunity (CMO) grants included several bike sharing programs.
Ironically, the insurance requirements in AB 371 are at odds with the state’s policies because they would put an end to all bike share in California. The insurance requirement, as currently written, would make system operators liable not only for accidents related to equipment failure but for those caused by bike share users. Such an insurance policy doesn’t currently exist and, if it did, it would be so expensive that it would make bike and scooter sharing systems impossible to operate. This would not only put venture capital-backed systems like Lime and Lyft out of business; it would also end the LA Metro municipal bike share and close down the very projects California’s CMO has funded.
Bike sharing systems have a tremendous safety record. A 2016 study found that bike share riders are less likely to get into accidents than people on their own bikes. If legislators are worried about traffic injuries not covered by insurance, shared micromobility is not the target with the most significant impact.
About 16.6% of California motorists are uninsured — the tenth highest rate in the nation. That’s almost 2.5 million uninsured, 3000-pound, gas-powered vehicles on our streets. There’s a problem worth solving.