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Uber will challenge L.A.’s suspension of its permit to rent out scooters and bikes

A rider on a bright red Jump electric bike, operated by Uber
Uber has appealed a temporary suspension of its permit to rent out Jump bikes and scooters in Los Angeles.
(Jump)

Setting the stage for a possible legal showdown, Uber has appealed Los Angeles’s decision to suspend its permit to rent out electric scooters and bikes.

Uber’s subsidiary, Jump, filed a request Friday for a hearing that will determine whether the company will be forced to remove its red scooters and electric bikes from L.A.'s streets and sidewalks.

Jump bikes and scooters will be available for rent until the hearing concludes. The hearing date has not been scheduled.

Los Angeles suspended Uber’s operating permit at the end of October after months of tension and failed attempts at compromise over a new data-sharing rule included in the city’s pilot permit program for electric bike and scooter rentals.

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The rule requires that companies transmit data on the start point and end point of each scooter or bike trip in real time, and share the route taken within 24 hours of the trip ending.

The real-time data sharing requirement makes Los Angeles “an outlier among hundreds of cities around the world,” said Uber spokesman Davis White in a statement.

“The city could say the same thing about Uber,” said Transportation Department spokeswoman Connie Llanos. “They’re an outlier because every other company we have operating in the city right now is following our guidelines.”

Eight companies have permits to operate scooters and electric bikes in L.A., including Uber, Bird, Lime and Lyft. They collectively oversee a fleet of about 32,000 vehicles that make about 1 million trips per month.

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Los Angeles officials have said obtaining the data is necessary to determine which companies are flouting the permit program’s rules, including caps on the number of vehicles and bans on riding in certain areas.

They have also argued that the companies cannot be trusted to regulate themselves.

The Silicon Valley giant has resisted the rule for months, arguing that sharing real-time information on trips constitutes government surveillance.

Although the data does not include the names of customers, the trip data could reveal identifiable information — including where people live, work, socialize or worship — with minimal analysis, the company has argued.

The city’s “misguided technique poses serious risks to consumer privacy,” White said. Several data privacy organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology, have backed Uber’s argument.

Uber, Llanos said, is “collecting way more data than what the city is asking for.” The data will be classified as sensitive and confidential, she said, which means it will not be readily available to the public, though it could be revealed in response to a subpoena.

Uber’s hearing will be conducted by an officer from the city’s Department of Cannabis Regulation. The officer will be selected “via random draw” from a list of on-call employees, the Transportation Department said in a letter earlier this month.

The department made that choice “on the advice of the city attorney” and to expedite the hearing process, Llanos said.

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During the permit program’s pilot phase, she said, officials are studying the process of appeals for the city’s nine franchised taxi companies, as well as in other city departments that are “handling more recent issues,” including cannabis.


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