Editor’s note: This Wednesday afternoon, the California Senate Insurance Committee will consider a bill whose author, Assembly member Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), says it aims to protect pedestrians – but instead would kill bicycles and scooters – sharing systems in California.
In the name of safety, the AB 371 will require burdensome and oversized insurance coverage for bicycle and scooter sharing companies – far beyond what is currently required for motor vehicles. This is supposed to help people who may be injured by people using the devices to repair the damage, but it is not the same as improving safety.
The bill has been on the insurance committee for the past year and is now being resumed for adoption before the end of this two-year session. The Commission can vote to accept it or kill it today.
Below is a letter signed by a coalition of twenty organizations that explains the deep flaws in AB 371 and explains why it will fail to achieve what it claims to be.
To watch today’s hearing, join here after the hearing starts at 1:30 (or later; sometimes committee hearings start late). Scroll down to find the insurance committee list.
Dear Senator Rubio:
The California Bicycle Coalition and our partners oppose AB 371. The effects of the bill do not match its intentions to protect pedestrians. Instead, it will damage the potential of shared bicycles and scooters to provide a safe, equitable, and affordable transportation option for disadvantaged communities in California. This will increase driving and all the damage associated with this increase: an increase in injuries and deaths from road accidents, reduced economic security for low-income people and worse pollution in already congested neighborhoods.
Shared bicycle and scooter systems today do not create the problems they caused when they were first launched a few years ago. Too often, their users leave them abandoned on the sidewalk, which is a danger to people who walk, which is especially problematic for the visually impaired. Sometimes their users, especially when on a scooter, drive them on the sidewalk, where they could collide with a pedestrian. As a focal point in our advocacy for fair and inclusive communities, CalBike recognizes that sidewalks are the domain of pedestrians and that people deserve to walk (or push their wheelchairs, etc.) without negotiating this space with others in a hurry. devices with wheels.
The problem of improperly operated bicycles and sidewalk scooters is solved mostly in modern shared micromobility systems. Thanks to state law that allows cities to regulate these devices, and cities whose permits recognize these problems, operators can now require users to park their device next to a pole, safely and away from the road before the trip can be completed. you are. Scooters are already equipped with the ability to detect the sidewalk, which can prevent the sidewalk from working.
State legislation could expand these local initiatives by imposing such practices where appropriate, rather than leaving it to cities, and promote the cause of safer sidewalks. AB 371 does not do this. Instead, it is burdening the entire shared micromobility industry with an insurance requirement that will drastically increase costs and make it almost impossible to extend the service to the people who need it most. This burden will do more harm to Californians than the benefits of several injury agreements. The damage is enormous.
Shared bicycles and scooters, when combined with public transport, are the future of fair mobility. When Californians currently have to rely on a car for convenient door-to-door transportation, a shared bike can close the gap between the user’s destination and the nearest reasonably convenient transit station. Or it can take you directly to your destination for a fraction of the cost of a car. For justice, climate and safety, it is imperative that we provide a public transportation system for Californians that is competitive with the car. Shared bicycles and scooters are by far the most cost-effective way to do this. AB 371 will increase the cost of shared micromobility and make it much more difficult to provide the fair transport system that Californians deserve.
It is important to note that this increases the cost of cycling to the same extent as it increases the cost of using scooters, despite the significantly different risk and benefit profile of scooters and bicycles. Even if the commission decides that some insurance for some devices is a good policy, bicycles should not be included in this legislation.
Bicycles are better than scooters in several ways. Their larger wheels make them much safer for the user. With a higher load capacity, they are much more useful. Data from shared micromobility companies show that they are much less likely to be driven on the sidewalk. They are much less likely to be poorly parked, although, as noted, thanks to permit regulations, scooter users adopt the long-standing habit of cyclists parking their bikes next to parking lots or on a bike rack off the sidewalk.
Most importantly, cyclists benefit from the health of riding. This is as true for shared electronic bikes as it is for regular bikes, as shared electronic bikes can be adjusted to limit their maximum motor speed and ensure that at least some effort is required on the device’s pedals. Increasing cycling will improve public health by reducing the incidence of cardiovascular disease, cancer and depression and reduce healthcare costs. This is a crucial consideration when the government has greater responsibility for health care and therefore greater concern for health care costs, and should be a vital concern for lawmakers seeking to improve California’s health care system and reduce health care costs. taxpayers and businesses.
AB 371 has even more questions about transport and health policy. Why are mopeds not included? California law allows shared mobility systems using mopeds to be offered to consumers without requiring motorcycle licenses that are otherwise required for personal mopeds. By exempting mopeds from this insurance requirement but including bicycles, the AB 371 provides a perverse incentive to rely on mopeds for shared mobility, increasing the risk of serious injury to drivers and pedestrians and reducing opportunities to improve public health.
Finally, AB 371 misses the opportunity to promote safe, equitable shared mobility without imposing restrictions on eligible insurance requirements from government agencies. If $ 10,000 is the right amount, it should be legally established as such, not just treated as a floor. Government agencies should not be allowed to participate in the ‘red line of transport’ by effectively banning shared micro-mobility in their communities, which they can do by imposing prohibitively high insurance requirements.
We are witnessing this impact right now with the Clean Mobility Options Program approved by the legislature to improve transport justice. The Air Resources Board has awarded a series of $ 1 million CMO grants to nonprofits and city agencies to drive shared bicycles for its low-income residents. None of these programs are currently running because they cannot find insurance that meets ARB requirements. The insurance committee must release the CMO money by treating the appropriate insurance limit applied to the relevant devices, such as the upper limit and the floor.
In short, AB 371 has a serious impact on transport capital. This will damage our ability to improve public health and provide alternatives to driving that are essential to our justice and climate goals. This will increase driving and all the damage associated with increased traffic, including, tragically, injuries and deaths of pedestrians. AB 371 does not strike the right balance between giving injured pedestrians the opportunity to repair injuries and preventing those injuries in the first place.
We call on the committee to reject AB 371 and to consider it next year, as the transport committees have a chance to assess how to achieve this balance in a way that preserves our ability to develop a fair, healthy and environmentally sustainable transport system.
Thank you for your attention.
California Bicycle Coalition, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, Napa County Bicycle Coalition, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, San Gabriel Active Valley, Sacramento Bicycle Defenders, Bicycle Coalition of San Diego County, San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, SLO, SLO County Central California Asthma Collaborative Inland Empire Biking Alliance, Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition, Planning and Conservation League, Safe Routes Partnership, Marin County Bike Coalition, SBBIKE + COAST, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Bike Bakersfield, TransForm, Santa Ana Active Streets , Santa Barbara BCycle and People for Justice for Mobility.