Berkeley’s first (legal) electric scooter rentals launching this week

Find out how many scooters and bikes are coming to Berkeley, and how you can report illegally parked vehicles.

The Chicago-based micromobility company Veo plans to deploy 500 seated and standing electric scooters in Berkeley, starting on May 19. It is the first of three firms set to launch their services in the city this month under new regulations for the industry. Credit: Sergio Ruiz, Veo

The first companies approved to offer electric scooter and bicycle rentals in Berkeley will make their debut this week.

Micromobility firms Veo and Superpedestrian are set to launch their services on Thursday. Veo has a permit to deploy up to 500 of its black and turquoise scooters, which customers can rent through a smartphone app under a set of city regulations that were adopted last year, while Superpedestrian will offer up to 250 of its Link scooters. A third company, Spin, is expected to roll out scooters and electric bicycles later this month.

Chicago-based Veo and Superpedestrian, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, will offer both standing and seated scooters, which are meant to provide a more stable option for riders who can’t or don’t want to stand for long periods of time. Customers will pay $1 to unlock Veo’s devices, then 36 cents per minute while they ride, with discounts available for low-income residents.

Spin, which is owned by the Berlin micromobility firm Tier, has a permit for 400 scooters and 100 electric bicycles, according to a memo sent to members of the Berkeley City Council last week.

Each company paid the city $15,000 for an annual permit, plus a $1,500 application fee and $64 per device. Eight firms applied for permits.

See an illegally parked rental scooter or bike? You can report it directly to the rental company by phone or email.

  • Veo: (855) 836-2256 BKLOps@veoride.com
  • Spin: (888) 249-9698 support@spin.pm
  • Link: (844) 701-8163 oakland_ops@link.city

Scooters and bikes won’t be allowed on the UC Berkeley campus initially, other than along Gayley Road and Piedmont Avenue, university spokesman Dan Mogulof said. Cal is planning to work with the approved rental companies to implement a set of campus-specific regulations, which could allow the services to launch there in August.

A handful of unpermitted scooter and bike rentals appeared on Berkeley streets in 2018, when vehicles from companies such as Lime and Bird were becoming a common sight around the Bay Area. Those rentals stopped as Berkeley officials began working on what turned into a multi-year effort to develop a permitting process for micromobility companies; the City Council approved the regulations in September.

Supporters say the vehicles provide another option for people to get around without needing a car — someone who lives a mile and a half from a BART station, for instance, might ride a scooter there rather than driving or using a ride-hailing app. But the vehicles have also drawn complaints about riders zipping past pedestrians on sidewalks, or haphazard parking that can leave scooters blocking the paths of people with disabilities.

Berkeley’s rules aim to address concerns about the industry by requiring companies to post signs on every vehicle reminding customers not to ride on sidewalks, and mandating devices be locked at an appropriate location, such as a bike rack, at the end of each ride. Rental companies must staff a 24-hour hotline to take reports of improperly parked vehicles and remove them within three hours. Vehicles’ top speeds are capped at 15 miles per hour.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct inaccurate information provided by the city. Superpedestrian will launch its scooter service on Thursday, May 19.

Nico Savidge is Berkeleyside's senior reporter covering city hall. Email: nico@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: NSavidge.