Transportation

Here’s what the new electric scooter law means for Sacramento and its sidewalks

A law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week allowing adults to ride scooters helmet-free is expected to pave the way for the scooter revolution in more California cities.

Sacramento, however, will not be among them. At least not this year.

Assembly Bill 2989, backed by the Santa Monica-based Bird scooter company, eliminates a state requirement that adult riders wear helmets. It also allows them on streets with speed limits up to 35 miles per hour. Previous law banned the scooters from streets with limits above 25 mph.

The law paves the way for e-scooter expansion by allowing users to grab a scooter on the street on the spur of the moment, without having to carry a helmet around with them.

Scooter companies want to bring the rentable devices to Sacramento streets. But the city’s current scooter law presents a problem: It requires scooter companies to install scooter parking racks, something the companies are not yet equipped to do.

Sacramento officials are working with those companies and other stakeholders to rewrite the rules. New rules likely will be presented to the City Council for approval in January.

City transportation official Jennifer Donlon Wyant said the goal is to make it possible for scooter companies to set up shop, but to create restrictions so that scooter riders don’t leave the devices just anywhere or cause other safety issues.

E-scooters are similar in structure to the foot-powered devices popular among kids. They typically have a deck with two wheels and a tall handlebar, but with a motor.

They have been controversial in other cities where users have ridden unsafely and parked them in the middle of sidewalks.

“We’re trying to take a more thoughtful approach,” Sacramento’s Wyant said. “Does it make sense to (use) bike racks, or are there other types of racks? Where should they be parked?

“We want to make sure the sidewalks are clear and curb ramps aren’t blocked. The best way is to create places to park them.”

Those rules likely will involve creating designated parking spaces for scooters and will require companies to pay the city a per-scooter fee to offset various city costs.

Bird officials said in an email Monday they are pleased with the new legislation and are working with Sacramento officials to bring scooters to the city “in the near future” as well as to other parts of the capital region.

“We believe Sacramento would be a great place to provide our affordable, environmentally friendly transportation option,” the company said. “We are interested in exploring opportunities to serve all Sacramento communities and provide access to our last mile solution so that residents can get out of their cars and more easily move around town. We hope to collaborate with city officials and bring Bird’s service to The City Of Trees in the near future.”

Pedestrian advocates in Sacramento have expressed safety concerns about e-scooters. In a recent letter to the city, Kirin Kumar of WalkSacramento, said scooters should not be allowed on sidewalks, and that the city must ensure that the devices have some sort of parking facilities so they are not “left laying on their side or parked upright in a way that impedes the pedestrian right of way.”

Jim Brown of the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates said he hopes the arrival of electric scooters to Sacramento will help push the city further in creating safe bike lanes.

“So long as scooter share can help get people out of cars, that serves the interests of people on bikes,” Brown said.

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