On Tuesday, December 14, 2021, Santa Rosa City Council approved a pilot program that will bring ‘scooter share,’ a fleet of electric scooter rentals, to the streets of Santa Rosa by mid-2022.
Scooter share has emerged in recent years as a popular transportation option, especially in downtown areas, among visitors to the area, and in tandem with transit to bridge “first and last mile” connections. Scooter share systems are owned and maintained by private operators who must be permitted to operate within the City. The City anticipates awarding one vendor permit for the one-year pilot program by Spring 2022.
City staff developed this program after reaching out to several Northern California cities to learn more about their experiences permitting scooter share and successful strategies to ensure scooters do not negatively impact pedestrian safety and accessibility.
Highlights from the City’s scooter share regulations include:
- Safe Speed: Scooters are equipped with a speed governor that limits them to 15 MPH. The City can designate zones within which scooters are prohibited from being ridden or should be held to a lower speed, such as Old Courthouse Square. The scooters are GPS-equipped and will automatically detect these areas upon entry, then safely decelerate. Riders will not be able to accelerate until they leave these no-ride areas.
- Riding: Scooters are prohibited by California law from riding on sidewalks, except as needed to enter/exit an adjacent property. On the road, scooters must abide by the same laws as bikes (ride in bike lanes where available, or on the right side of the road except when making a left turn or avoiding an obstacle).
- Parking: Scooters must be locked to a bike rack or other fixed object in a manner that does not impede pedestrian access. All scooters must clearly display the operator’s phone number; people can call the number to report mis-parked scooters.
- Equitable Access: The operator must provide and promote discounted pricing for low-income individuals. All materials must be available in English and Spanish. The operator must provide a method to rent scooters that does not require a credit card nor a mobile phone. Adaptive (seated) scooters must be made available to those who request them.
Leading up to the City Council meeting, staff presented proposed regulations to the Downtown Action Organization Board, Railroad Square Association Board, and Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board.
The City will open the application process in early 2022 and award one permit for 50-200 scooters. Applicants will be evaluated by their commitment and ability to proactively address known challenges and problems associated with scooter share, including proper parking, safe riding, and equitable access. City staff will monitor and assess the program throughout the pilot period. City Council will receive an update as the end of the pilot period approaches to provide direction as to whether to continue the program (either as a pilot or on a permanent basis) or terminate/suspend the effort.
A separate electric bike share system overseen by Sonoma County Transportation Authority and Transportation Authority of Marin is expected to launch in several Sonoma and Marin cities, including Santa Rosa, in 2022.
Additional information about scooter and bike share can be found at srcity.org/Bike-Scooter-Share.