On Monday, March 2, Palo Alto City Council will consider re-starting their deferred bike and scooter sharing pilot which was approved in March 2018, but was put on hold due to staff shortages. If it’s approved, the pilot would extend for a year through March 31, 2021, and afterward the city would review the results to consider permanent regulations.
Studies show that escooters can help reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. A recent study by the City of Santa Monica, where Bird has a 750-scooter fleet, found that 49% of scooter rides would have otherwise been made in a passenger vehicle, whether privately-owned or for hire. Mountain View’s dockless bikeshare pilot, which ended when vendors withdrew, was most popular for short trips of one-half to one mile, especially for trips to/from the transit center and around downtown.
The Bay Area’s larger cities, San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland, have active micromobility programs with shared bicycle and scooters. Bicycle sharing was not as successful in smaller, less dense areas, but escooter programs are continuing to spread.
Mountain View and Sunnyvale following Palo Alto
The City of Mountain View will be following behind Palo Alto; in February, Mountain View Council deferred their pilot restart to this coming fall due to staff shortages.
Meanwhile, Caltrain is conducting its own micromobility study, and the policies that it sets may be influential for the corridor as a whole. A report to the Bicycle Advisory Committee is slated for Julya
The micromobility programs in Palo Alto and Mountain View
Palo Alto designed program conditions to provide availability around the city. It requires that no more than 50% of the operator’s bicycles and/or scooters may be parked in the downtown and California Avenue business districts at any given time.
One common question about escooters is where they should be parked. Palo Alto’s program requires scooters to be parked in the “furniture zone”, but allows on-street parking in cases where there is no furniture zone, the zone is less than 3 feet wide, there is an inadequate sidewalk space or a rolled curb. To address potential problems, the operator must also operate a hotline for reporting issues.
Palo Alto’s program has equity provisions. The operator must implement a community outreach plan targeting low-income communities and a low-income customer plan. The 24-hour hotline and website must also be multilingual, as defined by the city.
In Mountain View’s program, devices could only be parked in designated parking areas or in paved furniture zones wider than 3’ outside of pedestrian walkways. They could not be parked in other designated zones (i.e. loading zone) or areas which require pedestrian access. Vendors were required to operate a 24-hour customer service hotline for reporting maintenance issues and unlawfully parked scooters. Maintenance and user education were to be conducted by the operator.
The bikeshare operators in Mountain View pulled out, as Ofo exited the market and Lime refocused on scooters, so Mountain View is now redesigning its program for scooter share.
Mountain View and Palo Alto’s pilot programs would require that the vendor pay permitting fees and deposits for each vehicle they deploy. Should the company pull out, the city can use the fees and deposits to cover the cost of recovering each device.
Some other nearby cities are being more cautious – the cities of San Mateo and Santa Clara set moratoriums on escooter rollouts in 2019.
Share your thoughts – March 2
Palo Alto Council’s escooter pilot agenda item is Monday, March 2 at Palo Alto City Council, scheduled for 7:30pm. If you live, work, or visit Palo Alto, or are interested in this trend, you can speak in person or send a letter with your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org