California Bill Could Jeopardize Shared Micromobility When We Need It Most

For a second year in a row, a bill in California, AB 371, aims to stifle shared micromobility with insurance requirements that are wholly inappropriate for the industry. On June 9th, the bill was re-referred to the Insurance Committee. For a second year in a row, NABSA and allies League of American Bicyclists and PeopleForBikes join California Bicycle Coalition in opposing the bill.

The statutory changes on operator insurance requirements as written would have dire consequences for shared micromobility systems across California, and would set a harrowing precedent for the industry nationally. Cities with shared micromobility programs in place have opposed these measures. It is not an understatement to say that the insurance provisions in the bill, as written, would jeopardize the ability of even the long-standing and popular bikeshare systems, Bay Wheels in the Bay Area and LA Metro Bikeshare, as well as other shared micromobility programs across the state, to provide their services. This bill would negatively impact established and successful shared micromobility systems and would stifle the growth of a thriving industry, especially at a time when the country is in great need of these services to reduce the carbon emissions of the transportation sector, and create more equitable and accessible mobility options for communities.

Policy or legislation that limits the use of liability waivers or requires shared micromobility providers to hold third-party insurance puts an unprecedented burden on shared micromobility providers that exists for no other industry. There is no data to support such provisions, which effectively privilege the use of cars, and disincentivize the use of shared micromobility, a more environmentally sustainable mobility option.

Shared micromobility should be regulated at the local level. It is local authorities who know their communities best and are positioned to create standards for system implementation that meet community needs.

New provisions of this kind would create an untenable financial barrier for companies to provide equitable and widespread access to shared micromobility, and stifle the ability for neighborhoods, cities, counties, states, and operators alike to provide much-needed transportation options through shared micromobility. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the value of shared micromobility to many who had not yet considered it by filling gaps in transit service and providing a more socially-distanced way to get around. It is now crystal clear that shared micromobility is an important part of resilient, sustainable, and more equitable transportation networks in cities and communities.

Layering unprecedented and unwarranted insurance requirements on the nascent micromobility industry goes against the grain of the USDOT’s recently released National Roadway Safety Strategy for the US and the federal emphasis on climate and equity goals, by instead joining a tradition of attempting to penalize non auto-centric mobility through insurance mandates, rather than encouraging safer and more equitable streets for all.

Right now is the time, not to thwart, but to encourage and ease the ability to implement shared micromobility as a tool for establishing more equitable, accessible, and environmentally sustainable transportation, ultimately creating move livable and safe communities.