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E-scooters in Massachusetts could become a reality with new legislation

Boston-area cities and towns are already preparing for the battery-powered shares

E-scooters in a row. Photo courtesy of Bird

Legislation that a state lawmaker representing parts of Brookline and Boston plans to introduce in January could clear the way for electric battery-powered scooters in the Boston area.

Recall that the e-scooters made brief appearances in the region in 2018, seeming to herald yet another front in non-automobile transportation sharing—the e-scooters dropped around the same time that dockless bikes started popping up. But a state law soon caught up with the e-scooters and away they went.

The 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.

The new legislation from Representative Michael Moran would exempt e-scooters from the signals and brake lights requirement—though they would still have to carry insurance and would need to pay 20 cents in taxes per ride.

It is unclear if Moran’s bill has the support to make it through the Legislature and then to Governor Charlie Baker, who does not appear to have an opinion on e-scooters.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council has been meeting regularly with the four municipalities that own the Bluebikes bike-share—Boston, Brookline, Somerville, and Cambridge—about a possible e-scooter share.

And companies such as Uber, Lyft, Razor, Bird, and Lime have been circling the Boston region, readying their e-scooter fleets for deployment. Stay tuned.