A bill in the California state legislature that shared bike and scooter companies feared would have ended their businesses has been amended.
A previous version of the bill, AB 1286, included language that would have prohibited companies like Bird, Lime, and Uber from using liability waivers — a provision these companies claimed would essentially force them to shut down if enacted. Without these waivers, shared mobility companies could be held liable for all kinds of injuries and accidents, including those resulting from poor road infrastructure, reckless driving, or negligent riders.
But after a massive outcry from the bike and scooter industry, the bill has been amended to remove the language regarding liability waivers — thus eliminating the main threat posed to shared mobility providers. These operators feel as if this bill was the first major existential threat they have faced, and they feel pretty good about having prevailed over it.
“As COVID is prompting many Californians to rethink how they get around, this change is a powerful acknowledgement that shared bikes and scooters are here to stay in our cities,” Sam Sadle, Senior Director for Government Relations at Lime, said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with cities and the state to encourage open-air, socially-distanced, and sustainable transportation options going forward.”
An analysis of the bill produced by the state Senate earlier this month makes note of the strong opposition from shared mobility providers, and it even acknowledges “such waivers are generally permitted and widely used.” Still, waivers laid out in user agreements and terms of service with customers must be “clear, unambiguous, and explicit,” the senators conclude.
The bill is intended to prevent scooter and bike companies from going rogue and littering the street with two-wheeled vehicles before a clear set of safety rules and guidelines have been established by the governing authorities. In other words, it’s designed to stop scooter companies like Bird and Lime from doing exactly what they did when they first kicked off the concept of dockless micromobility three years ago: dropping their vehicles on the street overnight in defiance of local rules.
Cities and counties would be required to “adopt safety rules before e-scooter and other shared mobility service providers offer any device for rent or use,” according to Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi, the bill’s lead sponsor. “The bill would also require the service providers to provide minimum insurance to protect riders as well as pedestrians and others in the event of an injury.”
Apollo, the main insurance provider for the shared mobility industry in California, said it would not be able to insure scooter and bike companies without liability waivers. But now that the language has been removed, that presumably won’t be a problem.