The Continuing Scooter Wars in San Diego

by on December 13, 2018 · 14 comments

in Ocean Beach

The scooter wars have enveloped San Diego for months. Whether you love them or loath them, the scooters are upon us.

Will they go the way of the dockless bikes? Remember them? Or the Decko-bikes? Or will they substantially alter the way many of us get around?

With San Diego having experienced our first near-fatality of a scooter crash just recently in Pacific Beach, with mounting other accidents involving scooters, with ER doctors bemoaning their impact, with the Mayor coming out with his proposal on regulating them, with new scooter companies releasing their fleets upon our streets and sidewalks, with crash victims lining up to sue the scooter companies, with certain cities banning or regulating them, with scooter companies suing cities for restricting them – one cannot get away from the new reality of scooter wars.

The accidents have mounted.

Just this past October there were 4 accidents in San Diego with scooters.

  • A 9-year-old girl suffered a fractured femur when her 16-year-old sister fell off a scooter they were both riding on and the scooter crashed into a tree in the City Heights area.
  • A guy who had been drinking crashed his Bird scooter into another scooter in front of him downtown, and had to be taken to a hospital for his injuries.
  • In the third incident, a woman was heading west in the 2100 block of Broadway when she found herself unable to slow down, so she jumped off the scooter, suffering a fractured thighbone.
  • Lastly, a woman was seriously injured with a fractured leg after losing control on her Bird scooter in the Marina neighborhood.

Last June an 11-year-old girl and her mother, visiting from Arizona, were riding one scooter along the Mission Beach boardwalk without helmets when they collided with pedestrians. The mother sustained multiple skull fractures and the girl suffered internal bleeding from a fractured spleen. In May – also on the Mission Beach boardwalk – electric scooter users crashed into one another; one of them had to be taken to the ER.

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.”

(Here’s more concerns from medical people about the dangers of scooters. See the types of injuries caused by scooter accidents. And there have been scooter deaths in other cities.)

Reportedly, scooter crash victims are lining up to sue Bird and Lime for their injuries.

New Scooters Coming to Town

Last August, Razor Scooters rolled into San Diego, joining the other scooter companies in town, Lime and Bird. Not holding back, Lyft and Uber are now preparing to launch their own scooters.

Regulations Anybody?

The OB Rag addressed the rise of the scooters back in September when we raised the issue of the City passing regulations for them. We said then:

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.

We then raised the question whether San Diego should adopt the same rules that Los Angeles has for the e-scooters.

Finally, in mid-October San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced new proposed regulations for scooters, which includes a speed limit of 8 mph in certain areas, and along the boardwalks in Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla. We reported:

Another element of the proposal is requiring that scooter companies share ridership data with the city and educate their riders about city and state vehicle and traffic codes (like not riding on sidewalks) including the cost of citations.

Their speeds would also be more limited in Mission Bay Park, Liberty Station NTC Park, Balboa Park, the promenades at the San Diego Convention Center and the Embarcadero area. Supposedly, geofencing technology would be utilized.

Each individual scooter will be required, under Faulconer’s proposals, to carry signage reading: “Riding on Sidewalk is Prohibited.” The scooter companies will be required to provide the city with monthly reports of where the scooters are, how often they are being used, fleet sizes of the scooters in the city, and the number of reported accidents. And each company will be required to indemnify the city from liability claims and carry a liability insurance policy.

So, on October 24, the San Diego City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee unanimously voted to have staff develop a set of rules regulating scooters along the lines of Faulconer’s proposal, with the hope the Council will take up the issue in January.

Meanwhile, back at the beach, the Pacific Beach Planning Group’s Streets & Sidewalks subcommittee has taken up the issue of electric scooters in PB. The head of the sub-committee commented to the OB Rag, that the scooters are “all over PB’s sidewalks, especially Garnet Avenue, the boardwalk and bayside walk, scaring the crap out of people.”

On one hand, the folks on the PB Planning Group wish to commend those PB riders who go from Point A to Point B, in the street, legally. About 10% of the users. It’s the tourists they’re worried about. We were told:

… many of our riders are tourists, happily joy-riding, often underage (parents renting them for kids) and/or riding double. Not safe! Not for those on the scooters or just about anyone on foot. Kind of ironic: healthy, strong people, mostly young, are frightening away pedestrians including young moms with kids, older people or the handicapped. I met a guy working at the PB Farmers Market (maybe 30-ish) who lives in OB and says he HATES them (ranted for two full minutes), that OB has a real problem with them.

The folks in PB held 2 large meetings on the issue and wrote additional regulations they’d like to see in Faulconer’s proposal. One idea they like is to have the fees collected from scooter companies only deposited into an enterprise account, so they’re only used for enforcement.

It’s probably time the OB Planning Board held similar meetings addressing the issues raised by all these scooters.

There is already a whole raft of California Vehicle Code rules scooter riders must adhere to. They include:

CVC Section (Scooters) 21235.

The operator of a motorized scooter shall not do any of the following:

  • Operate a motorized scooter without a valid driver’s license or instruction permit.
  • Operate a motorized scooter with any passengers in addition to the operator.
  • Operate a motorized scooter carrying any package, bundle, or article that prevents the operator from keeping at least one hand upon the handlebars.
  • Operate a motorized scooter upon a sidewalk, except as may be necessary to enter or leave adjacent property.
  • Leave a motorized scooter lying on its side on any sidewalk, or park a motorized scooter on a sidewalk in any other position, so that there is not an adequate path for pedestrian traffic.

None of this over, of course. But we’ll continue to publish updates on this continuing war of the scooters.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

ObKid December 13, 2018 at 3:38 pm

Are people idiots on them (just like they are on bikes and skateboards) – Yes

Are lots of people using them – Yes

Is it good for the environment – absolutely, yes

Why again do people care? Aren’t we trying to “Go Bold on the Environment” – oh yes classic Nimby sunset cliffers talking about OB like they own the place.


Andy December 13, 2018 at 5:09 pm

It appears as if the police is instructed to turn a blind eye. Question is why? To protect someone’s investment?

E.g. yesterday I saw how two people were riding a scooter with no helmet in the middle of the road infront of a patrol car. The scence has repeated itself once more in the next 30 minutes with a different patrol car. Both cars appeared to be on slow patrol in no hurry.


Kathy Blavatt December 14, 2018 at 2:09 am

Driving scooters while drunk is a real concern to me. A couple of months ago a girl came flying down the hill and hit a parked car at 2 AM! This is one of many examples I have seen. I am all for the environment, but sensibility, courtesy, and obeying the laws would go a long way for locals to support them.


mjt December 14, 2018 at 4:18 am

The scooter scam is just another example of corporate citizen abuse.
These tech criminals barnstorming towns across America with pockets full of walking around money paying off politicians, throw this garbage in our face saying we are here to save the world.

The market is young people especially males who ride anywhere and anyway they please.
This two wheeled infestation is at the expense of everyday citizens. The collateral damage with unsafe riding and streets filled with liter is self serving and another social agitation.

If not corrupt then our politicians are short sighted and stupid.


Debbie December 14, 2018 at 8:25 am

MJT….please run for SD Mayor! I think you could make this place a better city :-)


Rufus December 14, 2018 at 6:59 am

Three things….users who leave their scooters willy-nilly across the sidewalk, blocking access for not so able bodied folks is a sin. The other day I had to move a sideways lying scooter into the street so a cane-using elderly person could make their way down Newport Ave.

Second, the fact that scooters are “good for the environment” is a myth. They’re manufactured cheaply in China and use lythum batteries. Do your research on the human cost of lythum mining and manufacturing in China.. The scooters are a blight, they’re left just like trash on the side of the road. And finally, if you can use a scooter, you can walk. Walking is the ultimate “good for the environment” act.

Third, I’m disgusted that these powerful corporations just set up their business on city streets without approval of the community. They don’t go through the planning process, they don’t get city permit, they don’t seek the cooperation of the community. If I were to open a restaurant in OB, it would take me at least a year to get the required permits. Why is these mythological “environmentally friendly” mega-business gets a pass is beyond me.


Tyler December 14, 2018 at 8:13 am

Holy curmudgeons batman.


Batman December 14, 2018 at 11:06 am

Leave me out of this.


Bob Edwards December 14, 2018 at 11:32 am

Hey Tyler, are you familiar with the term “ad hominem”. Suggest you look it up. It applies in this case when Rufus provided three logical criticisms of the scooter plague (it endangers the elderly and disabled, the ecological costs outweigh the benefits, and the multinational corporations involved are not being good citizens) and you can only respond with name calling because you have no real response.


OBKid December 14, 2018 at 1:37 pm

Rufus provided three opinions with no factual data to back them up.


kh December 14, 2018 at 11:18 am

Actually we already have regulations. Our mayor needs to enforce the law, and stop pimping out our public sidewalks to these rental companies.

§54.0105 Sidewalk Sales and Displays Prohibited
(a) Except as provided in Section 54.0105(b) and (c), it is unlawful for any
Person to place, or allow to remain, any goods, wares, baggage, personal
property or merchandise on any sidewalk or curb, between the outer edge of
the sidewalk or curb and the property line.

§63.0102 Use of Public Parks and Beaches Regulated
(b) It is unlawful for any person within any public park or plaza or public beach
or beach areas within the City of San Diego to do any of the acts enumerated
in Section 63.0102(b). (A) Except for those sales that are protected by the First
Amendment, it is unlawful to sell or offer for sale any goods,
wares, merchandise, article, or thing whatsoever without the
written consent of the City Manager.


ZZ December 14, 2018 at 11:51 am

You kids get off of my lawn!

We need more police, send these kids to jail!

I protested against Nam back in the day. I can’t possibly be a regressive angry tool now. Whatever I want, that is what’s progressive, that’s what “the community” wants.

Oh and NEVER touch Prop 13.


PL Local December 16, 2018 at 1:34 pm
Gary Sharp February 13, 2019 at 4:46 pm

I just don’t get it. No rules no regulations, just ban them.
So anyone can just choose to start leaving anything they want to rent on our aside walks and it’s ok.
Our city needs to get some guts!!!


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