Santa Clara wants residents to ditch their cars
Electric scooters in front of Mission College in Santa Clara. This duo is part of 800 e-scooters launched by company Bird. Photo by Loan-Anh Pham.

    Santa Clara residents will soon be able to ditch the car for short distances and zoom around the city on electric scooters and bikes.

    Micromobility companies Bird and VEO are launching hundreds of electric scooters and bikes in Santa Clara. Bird received an operating permit on Aug. 8 and will start launching a total of 800 electric scooters and 200 electric bikes. VEO is expected to follow later this fall.

    Bird could not be reached for comment.

    The launch is part of the city’s Shared Mobility Program, approved last December, which aims to provide residents with alternative public transit options. Earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom stopped in Santa Clara to promote billions in transportation spending.

    Meanwhile, San Jose approved an action plan in April to incorporate more transportation options and community ride share programs. Electric scooters have been a source of contention in the city, with officials forcing stricter restrictions in 2018 on micromobility companies that include keeping scooters off sidewalks and limiting speeds to 12 mph. Micromobility company Link, approved to operate e-scooters in the city last year, uses artificial intelligence to automatically restrict user speeds.

    Citywide implementation of electric scooters and bicycles results in both logistical and environmental advantages, said Santa Clara Councilmember Karen Hardy, chair of the city’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee. The program also provides an inexpensive transportation option for residents.

    “Part of our struggle with public transit is it doesn’t always go where you want or need (it to), at the time that you want and need,” Hardy told San José Spotlight. “Cars are expensive and cause other issues. This is giving students (and) employees alternatives that they didn’t have before.”

    Data collection is Santa Clara’s next step in the process, Hardy said. The city aims to understand where and how the e-bikes and scooters are being used, and garner as much feedback from residents as possible. Users can submit comments through the city’s MySantaClara app.

    VEO hopes to launch its own fleet of electric scooters in Santa Clara in the next few months, said Director of Government Partnerships Jeffrey Hoover. The company has been discussing possible implementation with the city since early this year.

    “We were permitted by the city up to 1,000 scooters,” Hoover told San José Spotlight. “Our expectation is to launch in Santa Clara with about 300 scooters.”

    Long-term advantages of using electric scooters include traffic reduction, Hoover said, as residents have alternatives for shorter trips of five miles or less. The company plans to offer seated scooters as a way to increase accessibility.

    “(Seated scooters) open this world up to a whole bunch of riders who don’t feel comfortable, or frankly cannot stand on a scooter,” Hoover said. “We’re inclusive as to who we think our riders are, and this scooter lets folks go much farther distances and ride for much longer durations.”

    Safety is an important priority when implementing electric bikes and scooters, especially in protecting bike lanes or preventing accidents, said transit advocate Eugene Bradley, founder of Silicon Valley Transit Users. However, the presence of these types of transit options in Santa Clara is a new beginning, he said.

    “I see it as a decent alternative to just driving everywhere,” Bradley told San José Spotlight. “You don’t get that fresh air into your lungs like you do when taking a scooter or bike or even walking.”

    Contact Loan-Anh Pham at [email protected] or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.

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