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E-scooters in the Boston area inch toward reality

Boston itself appears to be leading a regional push for regulations that would legalize renting the vehicles

E-scooters in a row. Photo courtesy of Bird

As cities around the country—including New York, San Francisco, Washington, Detroit, and Austin—slap on electric battery-powered scooters via rental startups as such as Bird and Lime, Boston continues to take baby steps toward allowing the vehicles.

It’s not the city’s fault, though. Nor is it the fault of neighbors such as Somerville and Cambridge, which also don’t allow e-scooters. The vehicles are illegal under state law.

That law requires that powered scooters include brake lights and turn signals—which most of the newer app-unlocked rentals do not have. Some have brake lights, or the capabilities for brake lights, but blinkers is another matter entirely.

The state regulations date from the rise of the moped decades ago, leaving Massachusetsts cities scrambling to not only accommodate the apparent demand for e-scooters—they could be found all over Cambridge and Somerville during their brief heyday earlier in 2018—but to work to ease such rules.

Boston is leading just such a dual effort. It is working with Somerville and Cambridge on regional regulations for e-scooters, and hopes to introduce a citywide pilot program in 2019 that would allow users to rent the vehicles from startups such as Bird and Lime.

It is also working to get the state to clarify its moped-inspired rules on brake lights, turn signals, etc., per the Globe’s Adam Vaccaro. For now, though, it looks like the Boston region will ride out 2018 without legal e-scooter rentals. Stay tuned, though.