It’s Time for San Diego to Rein In Those Scooters

by on March 6, 2019 · 21 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

Originally posted Feb. 10, 2019

As serious injuries from scooter accidents mount at local emergency rooms, as it becomes known that more people are hurt on scooters than on bicycles or as pedestrians, while San Diego police issue record numbers of citations to scooter riders, while more companies are dumping their e-scooters onto the streets and sidewalks, and while other cities struggle to rein them in – it is time for San Diego to place some controls and restrictions on the motorized scooters.

And certainly more restrictions than what Mayor Faulconer has tentatively proposed (see below).

The Mayor is due to formally roll out his ideas on scooters at the Active Transportation and Infrastructure meeting of the City Council on Feb. 20th – at 2 PM at City Hall. If they are anything like what he has already publicly proposed in the press, they’re woefully inadequate.

The situation is dire.

In late January, a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association found scooters are more dangerous than riding a bike or walking. UCLA medical personnel looked at about 250 patients who went to L.A. area ERs during a one-year period with scooter-related injuries. They found:

  • only 4.4 percent were definitely wearing helmets and 8.4 percent weren’t even riding the scooters themselves.
  • during the same 1-year period, there were ER visits for 195 biking and 181 for walkers.
  • Roughly 30 percent of the people with scooter injuries taken to ERs came by ambulance — “an indication of the severity of their injuries.”
  • Falls were responsible for the vast majority of the injuries — around 80 percent;
  • next most common was a collision with an object, which caused 11 percent of injuries,
  • followed by “being struck by a moving vehicle such as a car, bicycle or other scooter,” which triggered 9 percent of ER visits;
  • non-riders who got hurt included walkers who tripped on a discarded scooter and people hit by someone riding a scooter.
  • Doctors judged 5 percent of the people with scooter injuries to be drunk, or to have blood alcohol content above 0.05 percent;
  • head injuries were most common, resulting in 40 percent of ER visits,
  • followed by fractures at 32 percent and cuts, bruises or sprains at 28 percent.
  • Of the 249 people brought to the L.A. ERs over the year-long period, 15 were ultimately admitted to a hospital — and two of those had to be put in intensive care, researchers said.
  • (there were another 74 possibly scooter-related ER visits kept out of the study because they “lacked sufficient documentation.”)

In the Sunday, Feb. 3, San Diego Union-Tribune, Laura Schroeder reported on the huge jump in scooter-related citations issued by the city in 2018 from the previous 3 years. From 2014 through 2017, there were only 11. Yet compared to a recent 8-month period in 2018, the number of citations soared to 1,560! A 14,000 percent increase. Obviously, these numbers are a reflection of the massive dump within the city – and other parts of SoCal – of the thousands of motorized rental scooters by various companies, like Lime and Bird back in 2017.

About 90 percent of the citations went to adults riding without a helmet. But with the new law co-authored by our own Todd Gloria and signed into law by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, now adults 18 and older have the option of wearing helmets.

The U-T reported:

Police issued the most scooter tickets where scooters are popular. Downtown, for instance, accounts for about 18 percent of scooter tickets issued from January through August 2018.

More than 500 citations went to scooter drivers in Mission Beach and Mission Bay Park areas and another 450, or nearly 30 percent of all tickets, were given to scooter riders in two areas of Pacific Beach.

Riding a scooter on a sidewalk is illegal and SDPD issued citations to 54 people for riding on the concrete walk-ways. 18 citations went to riders with a passenger, and one went to an inebriated rider. Scooter tickets go up to $250.

The U-T added:

Tourists received more scooter tickets than residents of San Diego. The data show they received two out of every three citations with people from Phoenix and Scottsdale, Ariz., alone, getting more than 80 tickets.

When Capt. Tina Williams of the Northern Division of SDPD addressed the Pacific Beach Planning Group on the issue of scooters in early October of 2018, she had slightly different numbers. She reported to the local planners that 1,660 citations were issued from January 1 to October (it’s unclear whether that’s just for the Northern Division or for the entire city?) Capt. Williams also said the total number of citations for a variety of reasons, such as double-riding and  underage – were 1,774. She added an equal number of verbal warnings were given during that period.

Undaunted, the PB Planning Group came up with some recommended changes to Faulconer’s proposals (see below). Other local planning committees should do likewise, and hold public hearings on scooters and see how local residents feel about them. The Ocean Beach Planning Board may hold such a hearing in the near future, as at least one board member committed at their last meeting to try to get it on the agenda. And the Peninsula Community Planning Board could take the issue up as well, if the will is there.

Pacific Beach citizens aren’t the only ones who want to tighten Faulconer’s proposals. In general, many residents of San Diego are upset with the lackadaisical ways the scooters have been dumped into their neighborhoods. and concerned that not enough is being done to regulate them.

In early January, a citizens’ group hand-delivered a list of proposals to the mayor’s office with their ideas. Called “Safe Walkways,” members of the group say rental scooters are making it unsafe to even walk around parts of town, and that more needs to be done to hold the companies and users accountable.

Jonathan Freeman, the founder of Safe Walkways, says the scooters are a hazard to pedestrians and the situation will only become worse if nothing is done to hold companies like Lime and Bird accountable. Freeman told Fox5:

“Nobody wants police officers issuing citations, So the responsibility has to be placed on the companies. They’re the only people who can solve the problem and our proposal says, ‘If you sign this agreement and someone reports misuse, you will cancel their account so they won’t be able to use a scooter from you anymore.’

And we require that the scooter companies agree to place their scooters in the road, not on sidewalks.”

The mayor’s office responded to the Safe Walkways proposal saying in part:

“The regulations the Mayor will soon bring forward will include limiting the speed of the devices in high-pedestrian traffic areas, limiting how and where devices can be staged and parked, indemnification of the City and a requirement of liability insurance, better education of riders about local laws, data sharing and fees for the right to use our public right-of-way.”

City politicians need to continue to feel the heat from the grassroots, like from groups like this and importantly from local planning committees. For conditions are not going to get better in the near future. You can bet that more scooters are on their way, as companies launch their own versions; Uber’s scooters hit the LA area in October; Lyft will be unleashing its version in select cities soon; and who knows, maybe Harley-Davidson‘s new electric scooters will end up as rentals.

Here’s Mayor Faulconer’s proposals:

Limiting Speed: Using geofencing technology, operators will be required to slow their devices down to eight miles per hour in designated high-pedestrian traffic zones around the City, including:

  • Boardwalks in Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla beach areas
  • Downtown Embarcadero
  • Promenade behind the San Diego Convention Center
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade Downtown
  • Balboa Park
  • NTC Park
  • Mission Bay Park

City Indemnification: Each operator will be required to indemnify the City from liability claims and each will need to hold a liability insurance policy.

Rider Education: Prior to each use, companies will be required to educate riders of local and state vehicle and traffic codes and the cost of a citation for violating those laws. Each device also will need to be clearly labeled “Riding on Sidewalks is Prohibited.”

Data Sharing: The operators will provide the City with detailed monthly reports that will be useful for Climate Action Plan monitoring and mobility planning, including but not limited to:

  • Deployed Device Data, including fleet size and utilization rates
  • Trip information, including start/end points, routes, distances and duration
  • Parking information
  • Reported incidents and actions taken
  • Reported obstructions/hazards and actions taken
  • Maintenance activities

Fees: Each company wishing to operate within City limits will be issued an annual permit, with a permit fee, and will be required to pay an additional operational fee for the use of City property. Costs associated with each fee are still being determined.

Pretty mild restrictions and no limits on numbers or bans from boardwalks – where many of the accidents occur. So, unlike in San Francisco, Los Angles and Santa Monica, Faulconer has not proposed to limit the number of scooters or scooter companies that can operate within San Diego city limits.

Back in September, the City of Los Angeles came up with its rules; first it established a one-year pilot program, once it issued permits to “dockless vehicle” companies. They include:

  • a 3,000 vehicle cap per operator;
  • a top speed of the scooters of 15 mph;
  • companies are required to equip the scooters with a minimum 48-point font warning against riding on sidewalks;
  • requirements that dockless bikes and scooters be parked in the upright position to keep the right-of-way clear – operators will be required to use technology that can tell if a device is parked upright.
  • Companies also must maintain a 24-hour hotline and respond to improperly parked or inoperable devices within two hours, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • the Department of Transportation is tasked to report back on building out safe alternatives to illegal sidewalk riding; and
  •  study potential revenue from the pilot to support active transportation infrastructure, education and enforcement;
  • each Council office to establish how dockless bikes and scooters are rolled out in their district,
  • and prohibit parking of dockless bikes and scooters in specified areas and also designate parking areas for the devices in high-traffic areas..

Here are the Pacific Beach Planning Group’s recommended changes to Faulconer’s proposals:

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

ZZ February 12, 2019 at 5:01 pm

“Uber’s scooters hit the LA area in October; Lyft will be unleashing its version in select cities soon”

Uber and Lyft scooters have been in OB since Dec 2018. Uber uses the Jump brand and also has electric bikes.

The proposed regulations seem pretty reasonable to me. The scan of a PB group’s change doesn’t. It gets basic facts wrong, like claiming scooters don’t have speedometers. Some do, some don’t. Scan a driver license every time you use one? That’s nuts.


Frank Gormlie February 12, 2019 at 7:46 pm
Frank Gormlie February 12, 2019 at 7:48 pm

Faulconer’s proposals may change once they get to the committee; as publicly proposed so far, they’re very inadequate. They don’t have any limits; the scooter companies can just dump as many as they want onto our streets and sidewalks.


Dan February 13, 2019 at 6:42 am

They #s are way off. Bird has 25000 scooters alone in SD. Mayor needs to ask about disposal and recycling.
What’s the program? Who will fix parking errors by riders and fallen over scooters and bikes all over town? Companies cant keep up, will the city be tasked with that? Parking enforcement going to write tickets too?


Vern February 13, 2019 at 8:09 am

Remember there is a local company that comes and removes the rental debris (dockless rental scooters and dockless rental bikes) left lying around neighborhoods, businesses and sidewalks.
Scooter Removal LLC
San Diego 858-262-1912


kh February 13, 2019 at 10:17 am

I’ll be curious to see what out mayor wants to sell out our public sidewalks for to these corporations. And what’s to prohibit other “disruptive technology” from encroaching even more?

We at leastneed accountability forthe companies and their chargers that place these in areas blocking sidewalks, intersections, loading zones, etc.

Also OFO bikes and any of these without built-in GPS needs to GTFO. They have no way of tracking their equipment once it’s moved by an unauthorized person. These more than any are littering our parks and canyons.

And if you want to claim these are replacing car trips, offer memberships. Because right now they cost a fortune if you ride them on a regular basis. Otherwise it will never be anything more than a gimmick for tourists to wreak havoc on our sidewalks.


ZZ February 13, 2019 at 10:41 am

Ofo is a Chinese company that went bankrupt. Most of their bikes were “liberated” by homeless people. I don’t think I have seen one in six months actually being rented and used.

“cost a fortune if you ride them on a regular basis”

??? $2 or $2.50 for a ten minute ride is a fortune? And really less than that, they have a million discounts and promos.


Vern February 13, 2019 at 11:24 am

Bird, Lime and other dockless rentals are being “liberated” at Petco Park’s very own “Tailgate Park”.


kh February 13, 2019 at 4:04 pm

$2 covers a 5 minute ride, not including the time to dick the with the app.

Yes, $120-150 a month in scooter fees is a lot considering you’ll still need a car.

All the scooters are replacing is walking. Walking is free and infinitely more green than riding around on a death trap equipped with toxic batteries.


Vern February 13, 2019 at 6:06 pm

The entire dockless rental supply chain is petroleum based.


kh February 13, 2019 at 4:42 pm

This entire thing is going to come crashing down when investors want to see returns.
Bird and Lime each have claimed just over 10 million rides to date. Bird has raised over $400M in funding to date and now is trying to raise $300M more. Lime is now up to $800M in funding. Funding as in outside investment/debt… not funded by income from their operations.

Assign $3-$4 to each one of those rides and it’s pretty obvious those numbers don’t even come close to playing out, and ridership is only going to struggle with all the new competition.

This gimmick will be over soon. I just hope it doesn’t leave us buried in their garbage like what’s happened in China. These are venture capitalists, they don’t give a shit about your commute or your environment.

“Analysts say that by setting prices low and underestimating high levels of vandalism and other depreciation costs, Ofo put itself in a position where it was haemorrhaging money but unable to raise prices due to increased competition.”

“Even as the millions of cyclists queue up online to have their Rmb99 ($14) deposits refunded, a new type of two-wheeler — the e-scooter — is being unleashed on to the streets of cities around the world, with critics questioning if they will face a similar fate to bicycle-sharing apps.”

“Electric scooter sharing start-ups, including Bird and Lime, are “not sustainable” businesses, said a top executive at the world’s biggest manufacturer of the two-wheeled vehicles.”

“Investors, who have poured millions of dollars into electric scooter startups like Bird and Lime, are now pumping the brakes on funding due to the difficulty of the business. Some scooters reportedly only last about two months, which is not enough time to recoup the cost of purchasing the scooter. ”

“Segway-Ninebot has no plans to begin renting out scooters in competition with the likes of Bird. “In this whole scooter war, we might be the only company making money at this point,” Mr Ho said, adding that the group had generated a positive cash flow for multiple years. “We would like to be the arms dealer, rather than fighting the war ourselves.”


Robert Burns February 18, 2019 at 9:36 pm

Thank you.


Chris March 6, 2019 at 4:58 pm

Probably. That being said I’ve finally tried them and gotta say they are kind of fun to zip around on. Best to take advantage while they’re still around.


Doug Blackwood February 13, 2019 at 6:06 pm

Bozo alert,hey are a nuisance & a blight:+ dangerous, & anti community! Try walking!
How much does the city make from this tourist onslaught?


Chris March 6, 2019 at 4:59 pm

But they are kinda fun.


retired botanist February 13, 2019 at 7:22 pm

Sigh, yep, just more tech crap depleting and littering the environment, while the “short term ( aka nanosecond)” think tanks walk away with everyone else’s $ and public resources. Just like smart phones, in 6 mos someone will come up with a new and improved version, requiring everyone to replace what they already have with the newer app and model….
And once again, people are only able to look at the “cost” as $2 for 10 minutes…that says it all! :(


darren February 13, 2019 at 10:10 pm

The scooters are great. I see tourist and locals riding around PB and downtown effectively getting where they want to go. They are a little dangerous, but that’s freedom for you. You fall, you get hurt. They are very convenient if parking is limited. Soon they will become safer due to technology improvements.
If you haven’t ridden one, than give one a try. They are terribly fun and a great way to get around.


Peter from South O March 9, 2019 at 3:51 am

“you fall, you get hurt”

So true! BUT what about the people who are walking along, enjoying THEIR freedom that get beaned by one of these lazy dips who are not following the rules.

You think things are bad in OB? Spend an hour sitting downtown (I have done so quite a few times since the infestation started) and you will see how well everyone is following the supposed rules.

I have yet to witness any sort of enforcement, even with the concentration of law enforcement in that area.

I highly recommend the Santa Fe Depot patio as a vantage point.

Do NOT believe that the City is going to be able to shield itself from liability with scooter licensing and surity bonds. The scooter companies are competing in an unsustainable industry (a bubble). Lawsuits last for years and years.


obcliffhanger March 6, 2019 at 1:55 pm

I’ve written several times to City Council for an answer to a simple question: “What’s the legality of someone setting up a business on the sidewalk in residential neighborhoods?”
Still waiting for a clear response.

Anyone know?

If it’s an activity that requires a permit, then it’s an activity that can be regulated and delegated to specific zones for pick up and drop off. Maximum numbers of dockless bikes/scooters could be established, and severe penalties for them winding up off site (including at the bottom of Cliffs at Ladera).


Vern March 7, 2019 at 8:19 am

“What’s the legality of someone setting up a business on the sidewalk in residential neighborhoods?”
What’s to keep someone from setting of a metal fabrication shop on the street corner – lord knows one wouldn’t want their garage and backyard to get messy. The neighbors can clean up the mess.


Doug Blackwood March 8, 2019 at 9:20 pm

You can’t legally sell “lemonade” on the sidewalk:
but, you can dump, clutter the sidewalk with: all the aforementioned: huh?


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