Will bike and scooter shares overpopulate La Jolla?
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 03/10/18 - 08:00 AM | 1681 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bird scooters are ridden down the boardwalk in Pacific Beach. / THOMAS MELVILLE/VILLAGE NEWS
Bird scooters are ridden down the boardwalk in Pacific Beach. / THOMAS MELVILLE/VILLAGE NEWS
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The last edition of the La Jolla Village News featured an article about “Bird” Segway Kickscooters, which are seemingly everywhere along the beachfront in Mission and Pacific beaches. The 30- to 40-pound dock-free electric scooters, capable of speeds up to 15 mph, are available through a scooter-share service via a smartphone app.

But, with several new app-based dock-free bike share programs, could this sudden propagation present a new DecoBike situation?

Begun by Travis VanderZanden, who was previously an executive with Uber and Lyft ride-sharing, Bird Scooters launched in September 2017. The company started in Los Angeles and has since spread from Venice Beach down to San Diego. Bird plans to branch out to dozens of other markets this year.

In Pacific Beach and elsewhere along the San Diego coast, the new mode of transportation played to mostly mixed reviews.

“Bird scooters could be a unique opportunity to offer an alternative transportation model, and last-mile commutes that align with our eco-district principles while mitigating some of Pacific Beach’s parking and traffic issues,” said Sara Berns, executive director of Discover PB, the community’s business improvement district. “However, we want to ensure that the company and its ridership are adhering to public safety concerns, and that of our merchants.” 

“We have reached out to work with the company to help alleviate some of those issues to ensure they are not impeding on our existing business community, but rather enhancing it,” she said. “We look forward to them working with us and the community at- large.”

Dan Michaels, a Pacific Beach business owner, turned his thumbs down on the new alternative ride share service.

“These new electric scooters for rent all over PB are getting annoying,” said Michaels on the Next Door social media site. “They are leaving them everywhere and [they’re] allowed to operate without a business license. Riders are intoxicated renting them, underage, and don't obey any laws of the road. Then when finished, they are leaving them in front of doors, ramps, etc.”

The more, the merrier?

Not only have Bird Scooters set up shop in PB. But, now, LimeBike, a dock-free, app-driven bike rental business model similar to Bird Scooters, as well as two other providers, have pervaded the landscape.

According to a recent press release: “LimeBike brought out its bright green bicycles on Feb. 16, making it the first dock-free bike share business to launch in the City. Soon after, Ofo planned to begin deploying its yellow bikes to share. And, on Feb. 23, Mobike rolls out its signature silver and orange dock-less bikes to locations in San Diego.”

LimeBike let bikes loose in LA two years ago, expanding to Imperial Beach and National City last year. Currently available in more than 45 markets, the recent spike in Bird Scooters and bike shares popping up in San Diego has piqued the concern of some La Jolla residents.

Halting the ‘invasion’

Despite not being on the agenda for the Feb. 26 meeting of La Jolla Parks and Beaches, Inc., community park planners resoundingly said “no” to dock-free scooters.

“How do we stop this invasion of our sidewalks?,” asked Sally Miller of LJPB, whose mission is to preserve, protect and enhance La Jolla parks and beaches. “If we don’t stop this now, we’ll be invaded by every [other] vendor while we’re trying to protect our parks, beaches, sidewalks, and streets. They [riders] can’t just invade us without our permission.”

Though bike and scooter sharing were not on the agenda for that meeting, LJPB members felt the topic important enough to vote it onto the agenda as an emergency item.

The action then invited other comments by board members.

“These scooters are competing with people who have rental bikes,” noted Phyllis Minick.

John Shannon said he almost ran into a Bird scooter operator with “no taillights.”

“We need to remember that we’re an advisory group for parks and beaches, not roads and streets,” cautioned LJPB president Ann Dynes.

Mary Ellen Morgan suggested LJPB ought to consider modifying its policies to address scooter proliferation.

“We can only ask the City to stop it,” replied Dynes.

“An overall policy with parks and beaches might stop this (scooters) creeping in,” countered Morgan.

“This isn’t just about bikes, but about every single vendor who thinks they have the right to throw whatever they want at us on our sidewalks,” concluded Miller. “They didn’t get our permission to come in and raid our town. If we just let any company come in, it will open up a Pandora’s Box, and we’ll have all vendors covering all of our sidewalks.”

“It’s much too early (to take a position) on this,” commented Dan Allen.

Dynes suggested letting the La Jolla Village Merchants Association “take the lead on this,” as the community organization representing business interests.
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