San José Moves Forward with Scooter Geofencing Rule

Bird scooters in San Jose, California.

Bird scooters in San Jose, California.


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One operator, Bird, expressed displeasure with the 12 mph speed limit the city imposed.

The San José City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday requiring electric scooter providers to implement geofencing, or a similar traffic safety technology, by July 1 in order to continue operating in town.

Geofencing would create a virtual boundary that either slows e-scooters down to 5 mph or halts them on select, pedestrian-dense sidewalks downtown and near transit stops.

The city Department of Transportation reported 14 e-scooter injuries, two of them serious, through November.

“This is the business of managing an increasingly dense, increasingly complex city with a lot of folks who want to use the public right of way for lots of different modes of transportation,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. “I think it’s good news that we have more modes of transportation other than the automobile; I think that’s the direction we want to go as a city.”

California state law prohibits e-scooters on sidewalks other than when entering or exiting a destination, but San José lacks the personnel to stop all “scofflaws”—turning to technology instead, Liccardo said.

Bird, Lime and Wind currently operate in San José and have expressed willingness to work with the city on safety solutions. The new rules will impose a $2,500 annual permit application fee, along with a $124 operation fee per device each year and insurance requirements.

But Bird Community Manager Marty Fatooh raised one objection at the council meeting, saying the city’s new scooter-specific speed limit of 12 mph doesn’t make sense. The safest speed for e-scooters is 15 mph, comparable to bikes, which share San José’s mobility lanes, Fatooh said.

Bird instead recommended speed limits be imposed the same way they are for cars with the responsibility to adhere falling on riders, rather than operators.

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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