Why a Bicycle Coalition Supports Scooters — And You Should, Too
For the past three years, CalBike has waged a campaign against bills that would impose unprecedented insurance requirements on shared bikes and scooters. In 2020 and 2021, those bills didn’t make it through the legislature, but AB 371 is on the governor’s desk this year and could be signed into law. However, the bill’s final version only requires shared scooters to carry insurance, not shared bikes, so people have been asking us why we still strongly oppose the bill.
Here’s why CalBike opposes AB 371. We hope you’ll join us in standing up for micromobility in all its forms, even if you’re firmly on Team Bike.
Pitting bikes vs. e-bikes vs. scooters makes us all losers
Esquire recently ran a hilarious piece about things people historically blamed on bike riding. The list includes everything from appendicitis to declining furniture sales (people were having too much fun riding bikes, so they didn’t need to sit down, apparently) to the dreaded “bike face.” It’s easy to laugh at the hysteria when bikes first became popular, but outrage at people on bikes never really went away, and it surges every time there’s an uptick in bike ridership, as there is now.
The latest whipping horse is e-bikes, with the same people who bitterly complained about “those crazy bicyclists” now insisting that classic bikes are fine; it’s just those dangerous electric bikes that need to be taken off the road this instant.
Do people on scooters sometimes weave through pedestrians on sidewalks or zoom the wrong way down a bike lane? Yes. Should they do that? Probably not. But scooter riders, like bicyclists, are trying to make their way through a hazardous streetscape that wasn’t designed for them any more than it was for people on bikes. Finding solidarity with people who ride scooters is a more productive approach to help us improve our shared spaces for everyone.
A scooter rider is one less car and one more resident demanding safe bikeways
Active transportation is not a zero-sum game. The more people who ride scooters, the bigger the constituency we have demanding safe, protected bike lanes.
Some bicycle purists look down on scooters because they are electric and riders stand rather than pedal. But a scooter is far better than a car: It takes up a fraction of the space, uses a tiny fraction of the energy, can be powered by green electricity, and provides a fun way for people to get around in the fresh air rather than being stuffed into cars and stuck in traffic.
On a summer trip to Seville and Lisbon, a CalBike staffer saw lots of people using shared bikes and scooters. People of all ages rode scooters, over asphalt and cobblestones, including (a favorite moment) a trio in business attire having an impromptu on-scooter meeting.
If we want to move our communities away from climate-killing and soul-crushing car dependency, scooters are a vital tool, and they deserve our support.
Scooters provide a critical first/last-mile transit line for millions of Californians
Scooters don’t need to be returned to docks, so they provide flexible first/last-mile transportation for millions of California residents. That alone is enough reason to support scooter sharing and oppose AB 371.
AB 371 will make scooters too expensive for people in disadvantaged neighborhoods underserved by transit
AB 371 includes a hefty insurance requirement out of proportion to the potential a scooter rider has to cause damage. Scooter sharing operators already carry liability insurance that covers injuries due to an equipment malfunction (their fault), but AB 371 requires them to have insurance covering the negligent behavior of riders (not their fault): $10,000 for bodily injury and $1,000 for property damage to an assistive device.
This insurance coverage doesn’t currently exist, and it’s not clear whether operators will be able to obtain it. If they can, they’ll pass the cost along to riders, which could put shared scooters out of the price range of low-income users.
People who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods are often poorly served by public transit, forcing them to walk long distances, catch multiple buses, or drive. Shared scooters provide a critical first/last-mile link for many people who don’t have good access to other forms of transportation.
In addition, the insurance requirement will likely drive some scooter operators out of California entirely, making this essential micromobility option less available. We need more shared bikes and scooters servicing more communities, not fewer.
AB 371 monetizes injury rather than solving the underlying problem
The author of AB 371 set out to solve a real problem: Riders sometimes park shared scooters haphazardly. Many don’t stand up on their own, so they tend to fall over, often blocking sidewalks and creating trip and fall hazards, particularly for people with disabilities or who are sight-impaired.
Unfortunately, AB 371 does nothing to solve this problem. It merely monetizes the injuries that someone might suffer if they trip over a scooter and puts money in the pockets of personal injury lawyers.
A better solution would have been to draft regulations for scooter parking and require operators to work with cities to create better scooter parking options. That would prevent injuries, which is a better outcome.
The bill’s insurance requirement sets a bad precedent that could hurt bikes
The insurance requirement in AB 371 is a slippery slope. If shared scooters need to be insured, what about personal scooters? Should California require people to take out insurance policies to ride a bike?
AB 371 punches down, hurting vulnerable road users responsible for a tiny fraction of the injuries on our roadways every year. We’d like to see our legislators tackle the vast and growing problem of traffic violence caused by motor vehicles rather than going after scooters today and, perhaps, bikes tomorrow.
Governor Newsom may sign this harmful bill. Send an email today and demand a veto.