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Get ready, Palo Alto. Scooters are about to hit the streets.

With bike shares on the wane and electric scooters on the rise, City Council approves latest pilot program for 'micromobility'

After two years of delays, Palo Alto is preparing to join the electric scooter era this spring, when the city plans to start inviting companies to roll out their motorized fleets on local streets.

The City Council approved on Monday night an extension of the pilot program that was initially approved in March 2018 but that never took off because of staffing shortages at City Hall. Now, with the new Office of Transportation in place and electric scooters emerging as an increasingly familiar presence on the streets of Santa Monica, Oakland and elsewhere in the state, Palo Alto is preparing to join the movement.

The city's Chief Transportation Official Philip Kamhi said staff is in the process of finalizing the permit guidelines for bike- and scooter-share companies, with the expectation that they can start applying for permits later this month. Kamhi said staff envisions a three-week application period, followed by four weeks of reviewing applications and then the issuance of permits.

Companies would then be expected to perform community outreach for four weeks after the permit issuance, after which time they would be able to deploy their bikes and scooters throughout the city.

While the council has been talking about bike- and scooter-share programs for years, the environment has evolved, Kamhi said. Bike share programs are going away, he said, as vendors are switching primarily to scooter sharing. And while the council has in the past considered a partnership with a single company for deploying dozens — or even hundreds — of bikes for a new program, the latest approach relies entirely on private vendors to provide the services.

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"Although programs had previously been approved by the council, staff made adjustments to the program based on the rapidly changing micromobility landscape and lessons learned," Kamhi told the council.

Under the new program, instead of dictating to companies where to place their bikes, it will invite them to propose "incentivized parking areas" for their bikes and scooters. This can include popular shopping areas such as Stanford Shopping Center and Town & Country Village, as well as Caltrain stations, libraries, parks and other locations proposed by applicants. Vendors will also have to institute "geofencing" around these areas (which sets boundaries for where riders can take a scooter) and implement technologies to direct users to these locations, according to the proposed guidelines.

In another departure from the past, the city will no longer set a cap on how many bikes and scooters can be in the system. The city manager will, however, have the discretion to declare certain blocks as off-limits for bicycle and scooter parking.

And by requiring community outreach, the city is hoping to avoid the pitfall of past efforts: the extremely low usage of its former bike-share offerings.

The council voted 6-0, with Councilwoman Lydia Kou absent, to approve the latest extension of the pilot program, with the idea of letting it roll out for six to nine months and then re-evaluating the results.

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While the enrollment process won't begin for several weeks, Kamhi said he has heard from multiple companies already and is confident that the city will see applicants.

"We will definitely have people applying," Kamhi said. "They were very interested in applying previously. We just hadn't finalized the guidelines and released the process for doing so."

One company that has expressed interest, Lime, already runs electric scooters in about 120 cities, including Oakland and San Jose. Sam Kang, Lime's director of government affairs in California and Arizona, told the council that the company has seen 2.5 million rides over its two years in Oakland, with about 80% of them coming to and from transit stations. He also noted that in San Jose, where the company has seen 2 million rides, about one-third of scooter trips displaced car commutes or ride-share companies.

"Outside of San Jose, the Valley has been conspicuously absent from this wave taking hold, in terms of multimodal transportation and micromobility," Kang told the council.

"We want to be the last-mile solution in Palo Alto," he added, alluding to the challenge some commuters have in getting from the train station to their final destination.

The council broadly supported the scooter experiment, which Councilman Greg Tanaka said takes the city in the "right direction" when it comes to solving its transportation challenges. Mayor Adrian Fine agreed, even as he acknowledged that the new program is not a panacea.

"It's one small strategy and one small part of the pie," Fine said.

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Get ready, Palo Alto. Scooters are about to hit the streets.

With bike shares on the wane and electric scooters on the rise, City Council approves latest pilot program for 'micromobility'

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Mar 3, 2020, 12:42 pm

After two years of delays, Palo Alto is preparing to join the electric scooter era this spring, when the city plans to start inviting companies to roll out their motorized fleets on local streets.

The City Council approved on Monday night an extension of the pilot program that was initially approved in March 2018 but that never took off because of staffing shortages at City Hall. Now, with the new Office of Transportation in place and electric scooters emerging as an increasingly familiar presence on the streets of Santa Monica, Oakland and elsewhere in the state, Palo Alto is preparing to join the movement.

The city's Chief Transportation Official Philip Kamhi said staff is in the process of finalizing the permit guidelines for bike- and scooter-share companies, with the expectation that they can start applying for permits later this month. Kamhi said staff envisions a three-week application period, followed by four weeks of reviewing applications and then the issuance of permits.

Companies would then be expected to perform community outreach for four weeks after the permit issuance, after which time they would be able to deploy their bikes and scooters throughout the city.

While the council has been talking about bike- and scooter-share programs for years, the environment has evolved, Kamhi said. Bike share programs are going away, he said, as vendors are switching primarily to scooter sharing. And while the council has in the past considered a partnership with a single company for deploying dozens — or even hundreds — of bikes for a new program, the latest approach relies entirely on private vendors to provide the services.

"Although programs had previously been approved by the council, staff made adjustments to the program based on the rapidly changing micromobility landscape and lessons learned," Kamhi told the council.

Under the new program, instead of dictating to companies where to place their bikes, it will invite them to propose "incentivized parking areas" for their bikes and scooters. This can include popular shopping areas such as Stanford Shopping Center and Town & Country Village, as well as Caltrain stations, libraries, parks and other locations proposed by applicants. Vendors will also have to institute "geofencing" around these areas (which sets boundaries for where riders can take a scooter) and implement technologies to direct users to these locations, according to the proposed guidelines.

In another departure from the past, the city will no longer set a cap on how many bikes and scooters can be in the system. The city manager will, however, have the discretion to declare certain blocks as off-limits for bicycle and scooter parking.

And by requiring community outreach, the city is hoping to avoid the pitfall of past efforts: the extremely low usage of its former bike-share offerings.

The council voted 6-0, with Councilwoman Lydia Kou absent, to approve the latest extension of the pilot program, with the idea of letting it roll out for six to nine months and then re-evaluating the results.

While the enrollment process won't begin for several weeks, Kamhi said he has heard from multiple companies already and is confident that the city will see applicants.

"We will definitely have people applying," Kamhi said. "They were very interested in applying previously. We just hadn't finalized the guidelines and released the process for doing so."

One company that has expressed interest, Lime, already runs electric scooters in about 120 cities, including Oakland and San Jose. Sam Kang, Lime's director of government affairs in California and Arizona, told the council that the company has seen 2.5 million rides over its two years in Oakland, with about 80% of them coming to and from transit stations. He also noted that in San Jose, where the company has seen 2 million rides, about one-third of scooter trips displaced car commutes or ride-share companies.

"Outside of San Jose, the Valley has been conspicuously absent from this wave taking hold, in terms of multimodal transportation and micromobility," Kang told the council.

"We want to be the last-mile solution in Palo Alto," he added, alluding to the challenge some commuters have in getting from the train station to their final destination.

The council broadly supported the scooter experiment, which Councilman Greg Tanaka said takes the city in the "right direction" when it comes to solving its transportation challenges. Mayor Adrian Fine agreed, even as he acknowledged that the new program is not a panacea.

"It's one small strategy and one small part of the pie," Fine said.

Comments

BirdBrained
Evergreen Park
on Mar 3, 2020 at 1:12 pm
BirdBrained, Evergreen Park
on Mar 3, 2020 at 1:12 pm

People are going to love these for about a day, and then complain that the scooters are littered all over the neighborhood. I look forward to the inevitable Twitter posts of the ridiculous locations these scooters will be found


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2020 at 1:43 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2020 at 1:43 pm

I would be interested to know what the school district is planning to do about this. I can definitely imagine them being left all over Paly, as well as other schools including Stanford. Teens in particular will love the availability of this.


Marco Schuffelen
South of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2020 at 3:01 pm
Marco Schuffelen, South of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2020 at 3:01 pm

As a bicyclist I hate it when those things take up space at the already limited parking space for bicycles. There's no need to chain those things so they should stay away from regular bike parking. I've tried to move one away years ago but they're pretty heavy.


The Cars Will Eliminate A Scooter Infestation
Community Center
on Mar 3, 2020 at 3:35 pm
The Cars Will Eliminate A Scooter Infestation, Community Center
on Mar 3, 2020 at 3:35 pm

As long as the scooters stay off the sidewalks, I'm OK with them. Let these motorized adults (who never grew up) battle it out with the cars and we'll see who wins territorial rights.

There should also be citations for those who ride their bikes on the sidewalks...sidewalks are for pedestrians ONLY.


John
East Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2020 at 3:51 pm
John, East Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2020 at 3:51 pm

Yes please! I'm in favor of everything we can to get rid off cars from downtown: less pollution, less noise, less pedestrian killing machines! Let's turn car parking spots into scooter parking spots, and let's turn two-direction road into one-way roads and open larger bike/scooter lanes!


George
Midtown
on Mar 3, 2020 at 4:06 pm
George, Midtown
on Mar 3, 2020 at 4:06 pm

Seems like a great idea, especially in Palo Alto where everyone always complains endlessly about the traffic problems. I'd certainly visit Cal Ave and University Ave more if it was easy to just scoot there and not need to worry about driving or parking a car.


Let it begin
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 3, 2020 at 4:25 pm
Let it begin, Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 3, 2020 at 4:25 pm

Let the cavalcade of injuries begin!


resident
Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2020 at 6:07 pm
resident, Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2020 at 6:07 pm

We visit San Francisco a lot. San Francisco has a lot of scooter users. I don't see the scooters littering the sidewalks (at least in the last couple of years). The scooter rental companies do a good job at educating their users to only park at public bike racks and the city has been very active at installing bike racks around town. Does Palo Alto have enough bike racks, especially in the residential areas? If I want to use one of these scooters to get to the Caltrain station, where would I pick one up near my home? Or are the scooters only for out-of-town users who arrive on the train and use them to get to work?


JR
Palo Verde
on Mar 3, 2020 at 7:54 pm
JR, Palo Verde
on Mar 3, 2020 at 7:54 pm

This sounds like crony capitalism to me. Scooter companies should not be allowed to illegally park their pay-to-use scooters on public sidewalks. If they want to build warehouses around town on private property for parking then that's fine, but they should not be allowed to profit from illegal public sidewalk parking.

Sidewalks are for kids, walkers, joggers, pedestrians. Not for parking scooters! There should be zero tolerance on this matter.


not
Community Center
on Mar 3, 2020 at 8:20 pm
not, Community Center
on Mar 3, 2020 at 8:20 pm

ugh
who approved this?
they need to spend several weeks in a town w/ scooters and they will realize what a nuisance they are


Downfall
Fairmeadow
on Mar 3, 2020 at 9:09 pm
Downfall, Fairmeadow
on Mar 3, 2020 at 9:09 pm

Where is it legal to ride an electronic scooter? I know they are not legal on sidewalks, are they legal in bike lanes? Or on the road if there is no bike lane present?


Oh no
Charleston Gardens
on Mar 3, 2020 at 9:44 pm
Oh no, Charleston Gardens
on Mar 3, 2020 at 9:44 pm

Ugh. They are dangerous! Much more dangerous than bicycles and other alternative means of transportation. Why is the city allowing this?


Resident
another community
on Mar 3, 2020 at 10:08 pm
Resident, another community
on Mar 3, 2020 at 10:08 pm

But how will I preserve my milky white complexion?
I wouldn’t want my friends back home to think I am really working as a street hawker or farmer in California.
We gave up bikes and motorcycles long ago.
My mum and gran always complained about their skin spots and blamed it on having to ride a motorcycle or bike.
I can’t wear sunscreen.


Willows4Ev
Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2020 at 11:38 pm
Willows4Ev, Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2020 at 11:38 pm

Once upon a late 80s time, I got 2 tickets for skateboarding thru Palo Alto. I skated safe and not reckless at all. Now scooters are going to be legal???? What a joke. Shallower Alto on steroids.


Adam
Stanford
on Mar 4, 2020 at 6:10 am
Adam , Stanford
on Mar 4, 2020 at 6:10 am

Here comes all the complaints. Come on now. Getting a ticket in the 80's for skateboarding.???? Complaints about nothing thats relevant. WHAT A JOKE. Just move away if you dont like it. Who brings up a ticket from 30 years ago. Shallow Alto at its finest. smh lol


Drawing The Line...
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 4, 2020 at 8:28 am
Drawing The Line..., Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 4, 2020 at 8:28 am

OK...as long as those geeks riding segways are prohibited from riding their contraptions on the sidewalks.

Let them use them on the 101!


Mario
College Terrace
on Mar 4, 2020 at 8:54 am
Mario, College Terrace
on Mar 4, 2020 at 8:54 am

Sweet! Ride it like you stole it!


Neal
Community Center
on Mar 4, 2020 at 9:52 am
Neal, Community Center
on Mar 4, 2020 at 9:52 am

Like others have said, these scooters are dangerous. I won't waste time explaining the physics, but most of the riders will be young and under estimate the risks.


Otis
College Terrace
on Mar 4, 2020 at 10:57 am
Otis, College Terrace
on Mar 4, 2020 at 10:57 am

It may be illegal to ride them on the sidewalk, but from experience in downtown San Jose where I work, the law is ignored. I have no doubt they will also be ridden on the sidewalks of Palo Alto which are much narrower. Who will enforce the law? Probably no one. They are a hazard to pedestrians without a doubt.


Curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Mar 4, 2020 at 11:42 am
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Mar 4, 2020 at 11:42 am

"Why is the city allowing this?"

Dazzled by trendy shiny objects


Family Friendly
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 4, 2020 at 11:47 am
Family Friendly, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 4, 2020 at 11:47 am

Lobbying, too. Kids on skateboards don't have a voice in city government, but lobbying and PR are the first things these startups throw money at.

Still, it might be a good thing. Reckless drivers and reckless scooters will cancel each other out in a few months, like matter and anti-matter.


Bike Parking Shortages all over town...
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2020 at 1:03 pm
Bike Parking Shortages all over town..., Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2020 at 1:03 pm

Palo Alto has a shortage of convenient bike racks at most of the city's facilities, including parks, libraries (esp. Mitchell Park Library), Cubberley, Main Library, and ironically, City Hall. In addition, most Palo Alto shopping centers lack adequate bike parking. I bike to Midtown Safeway regularly. Parking my bike is regularly a problem there.

It would be nice if stores and restaurants provided at least ONE conveniently located auto parking space to provide rack space for TEN bikes. I like to bike to local restaurants, but there's often no place to park and securely lock my bike. Most City of Palo Alto events are grossly under resourced with bike parking. California Ave has a chronic shortage of bike parking on Farmers Market days.


Oh no
Charleston Gardens
on Mar 4, 2020 at 1:17 pm
Oh no, Charleston Gardens
on Mar 4, 2020 at 1:17 pm

Well, if things happen in Palo Alto as they have in other cities, the scooters will be on the sidewalks and other pedestrian areas (in parks for example), not on the roadway. So it will be scooters vs pedestrians and it will be ugly. These scooters cannot be stopped easily when they are going at cruising speed and they have seriously injured and even killed people elsewhere.


Get a hard plastic elbow pad
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 4, 2020 at 1:23 pm
Get a hard plastic elbow pad, Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 4, 2020 at 1:23 pm

Get one of those hard plastic elbow pads that batters use in baseball, apply vigorously to the scooter rider who may be endangering your own safety on the sidewalk. Brace, then explode forward using legs and shoulder for power.


MicrobManager
Greenmeadow
on Mar 4, 2020 at 8:00 pm
MicrobManager, Greenmeadow
on Mar 4, 2020 at 8:00 pm

And how do these venture capitalists scooter co’s intend to wipe them down every day if they are hill and dale to prevent Covid-19 spread? BTW the spelling is of the illness has not self corrected. Google get it together. I wonder how WaiWai spells it.


Paul
Charleston Gardens
on Mar 5, 2020 at 11:43 am
Paul, Charleston Gardens
on Mar 5, 2020 at 11:43 am

Saw an elderly Asian lady going THE WRONG WAY on Evelyn bicycle shoulder yesterday.

Use of thse things without helmets, wrist protection, etc highly irresponsible and shouldn't be encouraged by the city.


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