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Santa Clara Places Emergency Moratorium on E-Scooters, Rideshare Bikes

In a move to combat the quick arrival of e-scooters throughout the Bay Area, the Santa Clara City Council has voted unanimously to enact an emergency moratorium, or ban. The moratorium will include e-scooter and bicycle share programs.

“We see the benefits of it,” said Assistant City Manager Manuel Pineda, who presented the moratorium proposal to the City Council at a special Council meeting on Dec. 20. “Our goal is to protect the public interest, but we also want to promote innovation and mobility.”

The emergency moratorium was voted on before the holiday because e-scooter company Bird contacted the Mayor’s office on Dec. 12. Bird asked for a meeting to discuss placing the scooters within City limits. Two days later, Bird contacted the City again, saying it would move forward since there was no response.

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“We’re happy to work with them,” said Pineda. “We were surprised to see an email that gave that time frame [of two days].”

The Mayor’s office contacted Bird on Dec. 15 to tell the company to wait until a meeting with city officials. To make sure no other companies moved forward, the City Council held an emergency meeting to vote on the moratorium. A representative for Bird was at that emergency moratorium vote.

“While we are disappointed by Santa Clara’s decision to temporarily ban sustainable transportation options such as Bird from the City,” said Bird Public Relations representative Mackenzie Long. “We remain committed to working with local leaders so we can serve the community in the near future.”

“We’re going to look at a number of [cities] and determine what might be best for Santa Clara,” said Pineda. “The two latest ones that I’m aware of are Fremont, in November, approved a pilot program with Lime scooters. San Jose just recently approved scooter regulations.”

Among the items the City will look into is how to regulate where the scooters are placed. The proposal for the moratorium expressed concern that some scooters could be placed in an area that would block access to bus stops, prevent wheelchair accessibility, or become tripping hazards.

The City will hold a public hearing on the issue during the City Council’s Jan. 29, 2019 meeting. That’s when the City Manager’s office will ask the council to extend the moratorium.

If it is extended, the office would have until Dec. 19, 2019 to implement City regulations for e-scooter and bicycle share programs. City officials are expected to meet with Bird representatives before January’s hearing.

Meanwhile, the state will loosen its e-scooter regulations starting on Jan. 1, 2019. Under new regulations, e-scooter drivers under the age of 18 would be required to wear a helmet. Right now, all drivers are required to wear helmets regardless of age. The regulations will also ban e-scooters from driving on sidewalks.

For its part, Bird is trying to make sure its riders follow the rules of the road. It recently partnered with AT&T’s “It Can Wait” program to create a video showing the dangers of using mobile phones while riding an e-scooter.

As part of the moratorium that was effective Dec. 20, if Bird or any other e-scooter or bicycle share program is found operating in Santa Clara before the moratorium is lifted, the scooters or bikes can be impounded and the operators can be charged with administrative fees and penalties.

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