Should San Diego Adopt Los Angeles’ Rules for Scooters?

by on September 13, 2018 · 12 comments

in Ocean Beach

Screen capture from BirdGraveYard

If you’ve been to San Diego’s beach communities or to downtown, you’re aware of the changes – both good and bad – that have been wrought on these neighborhoods by the new brand of scooter – the electric, dockless scooter.

You’ve seen them dart in and out of traffic, you’ve seen them on the sidewalks – and none of the riders are wearing helmets. You may have even heard a scooter rider coming down an OB sidewalk and demand you get out of the way.

They’re the biggest change to San Diego – and California’s coastal cities – over this last year – outside the proliferation of illegal short term vacation rentals. They, along with dockless bikes, have resulted in an intense “discussion” among residents about whether they’re a contribution or a dangerous nuisance to the community,

Part – or maybe even a good part – of this “discussion” includes the wholesale vandalism and destruction of and against the scooters. A sort of urban citizen guerrilla war against the scooters and their host companies.

The City of Santa Monica – where Bird is headquartered – placed a cap on scooters on local streets while officials figure out a long-term solution. Beverly Hills banned them for 6 months. The scooters were ordered off the streets in Newport Beach. LA Times

As certain cities across the state have begun to ban the scooters, or at least regulate them, San Diego has taken a “laissez-faire” attitude towards them – reflecting, perhaps, our mayor’s Republican leanings.

So, meanwhile, a new scooter company has opened in San Diego – the LA-based Razor with distinctive red and black – and will compete with Bird and Lime. Times of San Diego

And meanwhile the chief of medical staff at Scripps Mercy Hospital in a San Diego is “absolutely certain” it is only a matter of time before someone dies in an accident involving electric scooters. Dr. Michael Sise told the press, “Injuries are coming in fast and furious,” and said his team saw four severe scooter injuries the week before. Sise stated:

“It’s just a matter of time before someone is killed. I’m absolutely certain of it.”

Dr. Sise and Scripps Mercy began tracking the data on scooter injuries a few weeks ago, as right now no date is out there because the government doesn’t track scooter accidents. Reportedly, the San Diego Fire Department doesn’t track scooter-specific injury incidents; although the Lifeguards began tracking scooter incidents in March. One well-published scooter accident did occur in June on the Mission Beach boardwalk which seriously injured a mother and a 11-year-old daughter. NBCLosAngles

The questions must be raised: should the City of San Diego regulate these scooters? And should San Diego follow the example of Los Angeles – which just approved rules for them on the 4th of September?

Here is an outline of LA’s new scooter rules approved by the LA City Council – which are temporary which will allow time to tweak the policies before there is a permanent plan:

  • It’s a one-year program to allow any company to apply for a permit to deploy up to 10,500 scooters.
  • The pilot program will also open L.A.’s streets and sidewalks to dockless bicycles;
  • A15-mph speed limit is imposed on scooters.
  • users are required to leave bicycles and scooters parked upright, on the outer edge of the sidewalk, near bus benches, parking meters and advertising kiosks.
  • From 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., scooter companies must remove any scooter that blocks the public right-of-way within 2 hours or risk losing their permits, (with companies required to pay $28.32 an hour if any city employees must move a scooter or a bike);
  • A permit to operate in Los Angeles will cost $20,000 annually, and licensing each vehicle will cost $130 a year, or $39 a year in low-income areas.
  • companies will be required to provide real-time information on the location of their vehicles, helping officials enforce new regulations on fleet size and parking locations;
  • The rules are also designed to make scooters and bicycles more widely available to people who are poor, disabled or don’t speak English;
  • Scooter companies will be limited to 3,000 scooters or bikes anywhere in the city, but can deploy up to 2,500 more in low-income areas, and an additional 5,000 vehicles in low-income neighborhoods of the San Fernando Valley.
  • L.A. will require companies to provide a smartphone app available in multiple languages, and a way for users to rent a vehicle with cash and without a phone.
  • Bicycle companies will be required to include batteries on half their bikes, to assist older and less physically fit riders, or to make 1% of their fleet handicap accessible.
  • As California law prohibits riding electric scooters on the sidewalk, LA will also require the scooter companies to print a message on the platform of the scooter that reads, “No riding on sidewalks” in lettering about two-thirds of an inch high.Los Angeles Times

So, there you have it. What should our elected officials do?


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Vern September 13, 2018 at 1:40 pm

If scooters are left in my yard or around my house, they “scoot” their way to the trash cans.


ZZ September 13, 2018 at 3:41 pm

They are a fun and affordable way to get around OB. All alternatives to cars and SUVs should be encouraged. I don’t see the need for a helmet, your feet are about 1.5 inches off the ground.

“And meanwhile the chief of medical staff at Scripps Mercy Hospital in a San Diego is “absolutely certain” it is only a matter of time before someone dies in an accident involving electric scooters.”

And how many people died of injuries from cars every day? And how many people died from the pollution caused by cars every day? How many people died of the obesity their car-centric lifestyle caused every day? Please report these figures along with reports of scooter falls.


triggerfinger September 13, 2018 at 5:58 pm

They should be subject to the same rules as bikes, but I don’t think this can happen given current state law (which was intended for vespas, not these)

In the meantime anything that relies on city enforcement is a non starter.


Dirtbag Surfer September 13, 2018 at 8:14 pm

It’s not the scooters or the scooter companies per se, it’s many of the riders. It is especially not the laws. The biggest issue we face is that there is a decided lack of enforcement by SDPD that is troubling given the sheer amount of routine violations.

Now of course these are soft crimes, traffic infractions, yet they are so highly visible they are impossible to miss. If I was a cop, I would be on a ticket writing mission, it would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Yet the SDPD seems to turn a blind eye to this in OB although I did hear that they are much more strict in PB. Different division though.

As far as the rules go I really don’t think we need more. Again like many city laws, including those regarding STVR’s, the lack of enforcement is often the fly in the ointment.

Limiting the sheer amount of on-demand transportation services that include bike rentals and electric scooters is a tough one to imagine and smacks a bit of over-regulation. If not done correctly this can break the model of ubiquity that makes it all work for those of us who use them regularly as alternative transportation as well as hinder free market competition vis-à-vis exclusive contracts. No, I’m not a Republican lol, but some things are just pretty basic.

The rules, if they are followed instead of routinely ignored as they are by riders, make the scooters no more of an issue than bicycling. Both require responsibility by the users to follow the laws as written primarily for safety reasons – theirs and everyone else.

Too often we see helmet-less riders, underage riders, two people on one scooter and riders speeding down the sidewalks or the wrong side of the street and ignoring such vitally important things like stop signs. The most common of all of those is the lack of helmets which in addition to being against the law, it’s incredibly dangerous.

The lack of helmets is inexcusable especially since Bird really goes above and beyond by providing free helmets to all active riders, something that I personally took advantage of. You can request your helmet in the Safety section in the Bird app.

Bird has always been a “safety first” company and their safety rules and legal requirements are well documented in their app in a way that users cannot fail to see them. In fact, users must acknowledge that they have read and will comply with all regulations before completing the sign-up process which includes scanning in a valid drivers license.

In addition, proper parking etiquette is seen by the user on the app every time they end a ride as a persistent reminder so there is absolutely no excuse not to leave them in an allowable spot.

In my opinion, Bird has done their part. Now it is up to the SDPD to enforce the laws. Again, this isn’t a tough one – it’s everywhere! Tonight I zoomed down from South OB to Rite Aid on a Bird and saw 10 other riders on my way to and from. Not a single one of them was wearing a helmet and two guys in front of me ran two stop signs as well as were riding side by side down Cable which is super lame for the flow of traffic as well as dangerous.

As far as them being seen as “clutter”, I think their value far outweighs their appearance and ubiquity. It’s just something to get used to seeing and remember, that street of grass or concrete between the sidewalk and the street – the parkway – is public property and that is an area they are allowed to be parked.

We can also do our part as community members to pick up ones that have fallen or been knocked over or are blocking the sidewalk. It only takes a minute and to just leave there is not being a good steward of our community. Sure, we would rather not have to do that on occasion but we are all responsible to help out when we can and again, it only takes a minute!


obcliffhanger September 13, 2018 at 8:51 pm

I’ve asked Lorie Zapf’s office twice with no response (as per usual, so keep that in mind in November):
Aren’t there any laws/regulations about operating a business on the street in residential areas that could apply here? The scooters and bikes are stationary the overwhelming majority of time, not mostly mobile like the ice cream truck.
Could OBMA simply decide and decree that they can only be in specific areas? Why not do that and wait for someone to challenge it (and fail)?
Anyone with info on these regs?


kh September 14, 2018 at 5:35 pm

Yes in fact it’s strictly prohibited. See the last page here on a letter sent to all the rental companies by the city attorney:


vern September 17, 2018 at 2:01 pm

Residential areas have simply become retail showrooms and storage/staging areas for scooters.


Tyler September 14, 2018 at 12:18 pm

“It’s just a matter of time before someone is killed. I’m absolutely certain of it.”

I guess we better ban cars, boats, bikes, surfboards, and skateboards too… lord knows no one has ever died from using those.

It’s a new market and it will shake itself out. Limebike is already seen as an inferior product and they’ll probably fold unless they purchase a bunch of scooters on par with Bird/Razor.

And I entirely agree with the person above who said it’s on the riders. I see Bird out moving scooters into proper areas all time, while also seeing 20 year old dudes just launch them into walls/the ground as soon as they are done riding. Such pathetic disrespect.


kh September 14, 2018 at 5:39 pm

As for Bird being a responsible operator… I’m still waiting on them to come get these trashed scooters.

Yes they pick them up nightly which is good (and by necessity to charge batteries)…. but it appears when their equipment is damaged or abandoned they are just as negligent as all the other companies.


Doug Blackwood September 14, 2018 at 6:41 pm

put them all on newport; so the merchants can ride them! if I put a sign on my street, selling whatever I would be fined & told to take it down: its overkill!


Chris September 14, 2018 at 8:53 pm

The irony is that most people I know who are against these have used the scooters themselves.


triggerfinger September 16, 2018 at 10:20 pm

Then maybe they aren’t against them. Maybe they just see room for improvement and want the rental companies to behave responsibly.


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