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E-scooters in Massachusetts creep closer to reality with Brookline pilot

Milestone would add to a veritable revolution in micromobility in the Boston area

Photo courtesy of Lime

Electric battery-powered scooters are creeping toward reality in the Boston area with the scheduled launch April 1 of a pilot program in Brookline.

That town has decided to allow California-based operators Lime and Bird to distribute 100 e-scooters each within its limits—even though the vehicles are technically illegal under Massachusetts law.

The law requires that powered scooters include brake lights and turn signals—which most of the newer app-unlocked rentals, including those that Lime and Bird operate, 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 Massachusetts cities scrambling to not only accommodate the apparent demand for e-scooters, but to work to ease such rules.

Boston right now is working with Cambridge and Somerville on possible regional regulations. And Boston by itself is moving toward establishing minimum safety standards for e-scooters and other micromobility vehicles.

But the Brookline pilot is the surest sign yet that the vehicles appear to be an inevitability in the region and the commonwealth as a whole. It’s a matter of when, not if.

E-scooters would be the latest salvo, too, in a veritable micromobility revolution in the Boston region, one that in just the past two years has come to encompass dockless bikes and more conventional bike-shares never mind electric battery-powered two-wheelers and the fact that the Boston area is probably the most walkable urban region in the U.S. (the dockless and electric bikes, incidentally, come via Lime too).

Such means of micromobility have also been included in the ongoing debate over improving bus and subway routes.

The Lime and Bird scooters in Brookline will cost $1 a ride, and will be able to go up to 15 miles per hour. They are meant for use on the street, and can be unlocked via apps.