City Council votes to regulate scooters – focus on slower speeds, more rider education and public safety
Scooters are lined up in a parking lot as scooter riders head south on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard on Saturday, April 20. THOMAS MELVILLE / PENINSULA BEACON
Days before the full council hearing on new scooter regulations, a well-attended public protest sponsored by Mission Beach Town Council was held on Mission Beach boardwalk. / Photo by Dave Schwab
The City Council voted unanimously in favor of new regulations for electric scooters and other shared-mobility devices instituting fees for operators, decreasing allowed speeds and designating where they can park.
Regulations the City Council approved April 23 decrease the allowable speed of dockless scooters from 15 to 8 mph in high-traffic areas with the use of geofencing technology to limit speeds. Scooters are to be banned from parking near hospitals, schools, boardwalks and near Petco Park.
Greg Block, of the mayor’s office, testified scooters and similar devices are to be regulated in six ways: by being permitted, limiting their speeds, paying fees, parking in designated “corrals,” indemnifying the City against liability and sharing data.
Key components of the regulations include:
·Speed limits: In specific geofenced areas, operators will slow scooters to 8 mph. Three of the geofenced areas are pedestrian-only and operators will slow scooters to 3 mph with a push message notifying riders to leave that area.
·Geofencing will be in effect for beach-area boardwalks, Balboa Park, NTC Park, Mission Bay Park, Petco Park and the pedestrian-only locations, including North/South Embarcadero, MLK Jr. Promenade, and La Piazza della Famiglia.
·Staging: Operators will no longer be able to stage scooters and e-bikes on sidewalks in downtown. The City has identified – and is currently installing – 330 on-street dockless parking corrals throughout downtown where staging is allowed.
·In the beach areas, operators are only permitted to stage in groups of up to four, with 40 feet in between each group. The City will identify corral locations in the beach areas and, once installed, will require their use.The City also will conduct an evaluation of locations throughout San Diego where designated parking corrals would be beneficial and, working with the City Council and communities, install more.
·Rider parking: Operators will prohibit riders from ending a ride in specific geofenced areas, including beach area boardwalks.
·Education: Consistent messages about local and state laws in smartphone applications will be required. As will on-device labeling about age requirements and how riding on the sidewalk is illegal.
·Per device fee: A per device fee of $150 annually will be assessed. A reduction of $15 per device will be offered for operators offering a qualified equity program.
·Equity programs may include discounts, equitable distribution, credit-card free unlock or mobile-device free unlock.
·Data sharing: A variety of data will be shared about ridership, parking, paths of travel and more to assist the City in transportation planning, Climate Action Plan reporting and enforcement.
·Indemnification/insurance: Operators will be required to indemnify the City from liability and to hold a $2 million per occurrence, $4 million aggregate and $4 million umbrella insurance policy.
·Performance bond: Each operator will be required to pay a “Safety Deposit” – $65 for each device in fleet – to be held in the event the company leaves the market without its devices.
The ordinance will charge dockless companies an annual $150 per-device fee. The City noted that should act as a de facto cap on scooter numbers.
“The sheer number of children on scooters is alarming, is this child endangerment?,” asked Mission Beach restaurateur Sara Mattinson asked councilmembers.
“We have been taken over by scooters,” claimed Eve Anderson of Pacific Beach, arguing six scooter companies now is too many.
“Is it us or them?” asked Matt Gardner, a brick-and-mortar vehicle rental owner and Mission Beach Town Council president, whose business is being hurt by scooter competition.
Bicycling advocate Andy Hanshaw said his number one message is, “We need to build out our bike infrastructure and separate bikes, and now scooters (from cars) to allow riders the choice to be off the sidewalk.”
Scooter representatives testified they mostly favored regulation, while imploring the City to include them in working out the details.
“Public safety is the number one responsibility of local government,” said Council president pro tem Barbara Bry. “Other cities have been much more proactive than we’ve been.”
Bry requested an amendment to the ordinance banning dockless on boardwalks, but was told it would have to be dealt with later because it wasn’t noticed.
“If we could do a rewind, I would have banned this entire thing from the city from the start without regulation,” said District 2 Councilmember Dr. Jen Campbell. “We need to think ahead. Now we have to move forward. It is way past time that we pass regulations. These devices are a threat to our public health for riders and walkers, and I support banning them from boardwalks and sidewalks.”
Days before the full council hearing on new scooter regulations, a well-attended public protest sponsored by Mission Beach Town Council was held on Mission Beach boardwalk. Ralliers chanted “safety not scooters” while railing against unregulated dockless vehicles.
“We don’t feel it is safe just to go for a bike ride or walk our dogs,” said MBTC vice president Greg Knight. “This doesn’t just affect Mission Beach but every community in San Diego. Motorized vehicles and pedestrians simply don’t mix. We can’t take it anymore.”
Jonathan Freeman, a downtown ADA activist, spoke of solidarity citywide concerning scooters.
“We have exactly the same problems: It’s no longer safe for people to walk on a sidewalk or boardwalk,” said Freeman. … No motorized vehicles should ever be traveling on them. People here are seeing their communities destroyed by people willfully disregarding their safety. This must not continue.”
Electric scooters and bikes are prohibited from riding on city sidewalks.
“We got shut down last year 6-3 (City Council vote) on a (boardwalk scooter) ban request,” noted MBTC vice president Klaus Mendenhall. “How is it the City is allowing companies to use our public sidewalks for profit without paying fees?”
“We are assisting people who’ve been injured or hurt in scooter accidents,” said attorney Mike O’Neill, who’s filed lawsuits against the City representing injured scooter riders. “The only way to get our City’s attention is to hit them in the pocketbook.”