San Diego Getting Ready to Crack Down on Scooters, Finally, No, Really This Time

by on May 5, 2022 · 17 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

After four years of complaints from residents and businesses, the city of San Diego is finally getting ready to crack down on electric scooters. Finally.

No, really this time.

A proposal with supposedly “sweeping changes to how the city regulates electric scooters” was approved unanimously last week by the City Council’s Active Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and now is scheduled for a vote by the full council in late May. It could take effect as soon as July.

The changes include:

  • a crackdown on sidewalk usage,
  • rules against staging scooters in large clusters,
  • a ban on parking scooters anywhere but city-painted corrals,
  • lessening the number of companies allowed to operate scooters,
  • quadruple the annual fee they’ve been paying
  • require operators to respond to complaints about their scooters within one hour
  • extend the city’s scooter regulations for the first time to electronic bikes,

Scooter use has dramatically increased recently after a two-year lull that everyone blames on pandemic-related restrictions.

When scooters first arrived on the scene in 2018, it was a wild west as they were totally unregulated. Scooter riders didn’t need to wear a helmet (thanks Todd Gloria) and they took to the sidewalks like seagulls to a disregarded bag of fries. Injuries, scary encounters with pedestrians, scattered scooters all over. It was crazy as it seemed the city and then-Mayor Faulconer just didn’t care.

Emergency rooms were seeing a dramatic rise in scooter injuries and other cities began enacting measures to rein in the vehicles. Not San Diego. Even though riding scooters on the sidewalks was illegal, San Diego didn’t have anybody enforcing the rule. Scooters were discarded or left everywhere — and pedestrians had troubles getting around them, as the Widder Curry noted here.

One observer commented:

“… The city of San Diego is overrun with scooters. Many of the scooter companies operate under a business model that has little regard for public safety, ADA laws, or private property. The real reason is that most of the scooter companies do not truly care who they impose on while they make their money. As long as armies of electric scooters are allowed to charge people’s credit cards, most of the scooter companies could care less where they roam, or how they are operated. It is a “leave-it-anywhere,” “impose-on-everyone” philosophy of operating a business that unfortunately disrespects public safety and the private property rights of others…”.

When the New York Times did a story on the situation in San Diego, it carried this headline: “Welcome to San Diego. Don’t Mind the Scooters.” And when Seattle started pondering how to regulate scooters, a TV station sent a crew here for a “what not to do” piece.

Then in mid-October of 2018, Faulconer proposed a new set of regulations for the scooters. They included: a speed limit of 8 mph in certain areas, and along the boardwalks in Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla; requiring scooter companies to 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. Speeds would also be more limited in Mission Bay Park, Liberty Station NTC Park, Balboa Park and other areas of the city through geofencing technology.

The Rag’s reaction:

These new proposed regulations don’t come soon enough. Beach and downtown residents have been complaining for months about the dangers and disruptions of the scooters. Reportedly, last month “public health officials at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego called the scooter trend a ‘public health disaster in the making,’ and announced it was spearheading an effort to track injuries related to the electric vehicles.” Those officials said that while exact numbers on injuries are not yet available, at least 30 scooter riders have required hospitalization since June, with scores more being treated in the emergency room.

However, Faulconer is not proposing to limit the size of the scooter fleets or the number of scooter companies that are allowed to operate within San Diego, unlike LA, Santa Monica and San Francisco. There is a proposed annual permit fee and additional operating fees for the use of city property, the costs of which are still being determined. According to the SD Union-Tribune, LA companies – for example – “pay as much as $20,000 a year for a permit to operate in the city and a $130 per-vehicle fee.”

In mid-December of 2018, Uber and Lyft unloaded a combined 500 electric scooters on San Diego in just one week. Uber had just deposited about 300 e-bikes in San Diego the previous month.

Early January 2019 saw a lawsuit against the city of San Diego and electric scooter brands Lime and Bird filed in federal court alleging the ubiquitous motorized vehicles are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by impeding and blocking access to city streets and sidewalks.

“Without full use of the sidewalk and curb ramps at street intersections, persons with mobility and/or visual impairments have significant barriers in crossing from a pedestrian walkway to a street,” the suit alleges. “This is exacerbated when the sidewalk itself is full of obstructions and no longer able to be fully and freely used by people with disabilities.”

The suit accused the city of not maintaining streets and sidewalks in a way that doesn’t discriminate against the disabled and allowing “dockless scooters used primarily for recreational purposes to proliferate unchecked throughout San Diego and to block safe and equal access for people with disabilities.”

After months of feedback from communities of San Diego, Faulconer in February 2019 adjusted his October proposals for regulating scooters and e-bikes. His office said his set of proposed regulations for dockless scooters and bicycles will “address public safety concerns by slowing the devices down in heavily-trafficked public spaces, establish clear rules of the road to hold operators accountable, and charge an annual fee for each device.”

Beginning in February 2019, the OB Rag began declaring it was time to rein in the scooters. We stated then:

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. …

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.

The  San Diego Union-Tribune, reported on a 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.

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.

In early January 2019, 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:

At their March 6, 2019 meeting, the Ocean Beach Planning Board raised a number of substantial issues and concerns not addressed by the Faulconer’s recommendations. The panel wanted to include Ocean Beach in the proposed neighborhoods to have geographical limitations on the motorized vehicles via geo-fencing. Plus they want to see limits on the numbers of scooters allowed within city limits. Also, the way the City of Coronado handles scooters was cited as a good example: Coronado can impound tagged scooters and bikes after 72 hours. If they are not removed within two hours, they will be impounded. Dockless scooter and bike companies can claim their impounded vehicles after paying a fee or citation.

After a lengthy discussion, the Board decided to send a letter to Mayor Faulconer’s office and to District 2 Councilwoman Jen Campbell outlining their chief concerns. They included the following issues:

  • Geo-fencing in Ocean Beach;
  • Safety issues – ‘they’re a hazard to pedestrians’;
  • ADA accessibility;
  • No storage / parking on public right-of-way;
  • Limit the total number of scooters and fleets;
  • Encourage staging at transit sites, not residential areas;
  • Establish business partnership between city and companies;
  • Require time to remove or else have scooters impounded, like Coronado
  • Vet the various companies;
  • If choosing vendor, ensure subsidization for low-income users.

The City Council unanimously approved Faulconer’s recommendations.

Still, without regulation, the scooters became targets for vandalism. In early 2019, local station Fox5 found “Dozens of electric scooters and bikes were found damaged or defaced with inappropriate words  in Ocean Beach,”, adding the damaged scooters caused “a bit of an eyesore.” … Some of the scooters and bikes were spray-painted; for instance, one said, “Bird sucks”; others had spray-paint on their handles and sides. Others were damaged and weren’t able to be used.  At least one scooter had a flat tire.

During the 2019 mayoral campaign, candidate and Councilwoman Barbara Bry called for a moratorium on electric scooters in San Diego citing safety issues and lack of permitting. Bry released a public statement, saying, “Enough is enough – scooter companies have had their opportunity.” She laid out a list of problems the scooters have caused in San Diego, according to Morgan Cook at the San Diego Union-Tribune:

… injuries, strain on city resources, private companies going onto private property to retrieve scooters, and a “scooter graveyard” where the vehicles pile up, posing a long-term environmental threat. …

Bry has said regulations aren’t solving the problems, and it’s time to place a moratorium on them until the city demonstrates that it can develop a fiscally responsible, well-thought-out plan that ensures safety for people and the environment.

Bry had tried unsuccessfully in the summer of 2018 to have the City ban scooters on boardwalks and other specified areas.

Bry’s opponent, then-Assemblymember Todd Gloria, at the time disagreed with any banning of the scooters. He helped pass legislation back in 2018 that eliminated the requirement that adult scooter riders had to wear helmets – something Bry lobbied against. Gloria spokesman, Nick Serrano told the U-T:

“Our belief is that there’s probably more regulations that can be enacted regarding scooters, but banning them is not the right way to go.”

Cook at the U-T said:

Gloria has said scooters could help the city meet climate action goals, free up parking spaces and reduce traffic, and regulations must balance safety with those interests.

In October 2019, I wrote an opinion piece about the scooters, entitled, “Scooters: It’s Not About the Technology – It’s About How They Were Rolled Out.”

It’s not about the technology; it’s about how the scooters were rolled out in the first place.

It’s about how thousands of them – first the e-bikes, then the scooters – were literally dumped into communities without their say-so, without public approval – and even knowledge; it’s about the undemocratic nature of the decisions by our lassez-faire political leaders that paved the road for them. (This is French for “abstention by governments from interfering in the workings of the free market.”)

It’s also about the dangers and risks caused by these 2-wheeled vehicles for riders uneducated or learned in how they roll.

And that’s what happened. Our local government declined to set any limits or rules for the scooters when they first flowed like German beer at Oktoberfest onto our streets, sidewalks and public space. This was very lassez-faire capitalism at its finest. I know Brett is not a big supporter of out-of-control capitalism but this fact has slipped his analysis.

And again, it’s not about the technology. Scooters – under the right conditions – may very well aid us humans in getting out of our cars (and buses?), reducing the carbon, the waste, and making us happier.

The San Diego U-T reported in October 2019:

Three months after new city regulations went into effect, two companies, Jump and Skip, have left town. Another, Lime, may lose its permit because of repeated operating infractions. Almost 500 riders received traffic tickets, more than half of them for riding on sidewalks. The city impounded more than 3,700 scooters for parking violations.

The Wild West, it seems, may finally have a sheriff.

It’s too soon to say how effective or long-lasting the crackdown will be, or what it means to the future of dockless scooters here. Depending on the time and place, this can still look like a town that’s been overrun. When the New York Times did a story recently on the situation here it carried this headline: “Welcome to San Diego. Don’t Mind the Scooters.” And when Seattle started pondering how to regulate scooters, a TV station sent a crew here for a “what not to do” piece.

Still, the rules appear to be having an impact. Ridership is down, as measured by average daily trips, from 33,000 in July to 17,000 in the first half of September, according to city data compiled from the rental companies. Fewer scooters are in use, from a daily high in the 15,000 range three months ago to about 10,000 now, officials said.

Some of that may be seasonal, because a significant portion of scooter riders are tourists. Some of it may be the weather, summer turning toward fall and taking hours of sunlight with it. And some of it is the inevitable growing pains of an industry that is barely two years old — a toddler, with all the usual consequences.

Also , San Diego Union-Tribune reporter, Joshua E. Smith broke the news that same month that scooter ridership has plummeted by over 50% since summer.

It might be the change in the seasons, but since the city of San Diego put its rules for dockless e-scooters in place this summer ridership has been plummeting.

From July to October the number of trips using shared-mobility devices dropped by 50 percent — with rides taken over a two-week time frame going from 441,830 down to 222,076, according to data recently released by the city.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office, which has touted the scooters as a green alternative to driving, has yet to express concern about the ridership decline. Officials have suggested the dip is likely due to tourism tapering off as winter approaches.

It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on since the city only started collecting data from the industry this summer, more than a year after many companies first showed up in San Diego.

Two years ago, in 2020, a poll declared: “Large majorities of Democrats and Independents Want Stricter Regulations on Electric Scooters.” 56% of Democratic voters and 63% of Independent voters surveyed want stricter regulations on electric scooter use in San Diego. 47% of Republicans also agree. This is 55% of everybody. Significant minorities want them banned altogether, 23% overall, whereas only 18% overall want less strict regulations.

The New 2022 Proposal:

  • would shrink the number of operators from seven to somewhere between two and four, while decreasing the maximum number of scooters allowed in the city from 11,000 to 8,000.
  • annual fee paid by each operator would increase from $5,141 to $20,000
  • the fee per scooter would be governed by a new model. Instead of paying an annual fee of $67.50 per scooter, operators would pay 75 cents per day for each scooter;
  • the city would decide which operators can continue with the request-for-proposals process.
  • key element would be reducing from three hours to one hour how quickly operators must respond to complaints about scooters submitted to the city’s Get it Done! tipster app.
  • Scanning of driver’s licenses would be required to prevent usage by underage riders, and
  • each rider would be forced to read rules regarding usage, parking and geofencing.
  • Operators could no longer cluster more than four scooters together and
  • scooters would have to be parked in city-painted corrals
  • . But e-bikes and other dockless bikes could use public bike racks.
  • Operators also could no longer increase the number of scooters for special events, such as Comic-Con.
  • All scooters would need to be labeled, in 40-point font, with decals saying “riding and parking on sidewalks are prohibited.”
  • They would also need to have displayed, in 88-point type, a device identification number.

The changes would also clarify and strengthen rules for impounding scooters and include penalties for companies who choose to cease operations before their contract expires.

Scooters were unregulated in San Diego from when they arrived in 2018 until the spring of 2019, when the existing regulatory framework was created. In winter 2020, the city banned scooters on boardwalks and in some parks.


{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Webb May 5, 2022 at 4:17 pm

At first, I thought that the law proposed by Todd Gloria and passed by the legislature when he was in Sacramento eliminating the requirement for scooter riders to wear helmets was a sell-out to the scooter companies. But as I get older and think about how nice it would be to have a greater pool of young and healthy potential organ donors, I’m 100% behind the idea of no helmets for scooter riders. In fact, maybe we should have a helmet ban (which is probably not necessary as I seen no helmeted scooter riders, ever)!


David StJohn May 5, 2022 at 6:10 pm

What I found interesting during this whole situation is that our honored council person Dr Jen never once argued that there was a medical danger with scooters. She loves to use her medical background while running for office but doesn’t act to safeguard the public health risk. She was too busy working on other “public safety” issues like the 30foot limit.

Shame on her!


Vern May 6, 2022 at 2:32 pm

Campbell’s latest junk mail shows her, again, in a lab coat and stethoscope costume.
Just vote her out. Her time has come and gone. Gloria is next to go.


Toby May 8, 2022 at 5:06 am

ABC – Anybody But Campbell
Costume indeed! She’s’ a disgrace to the medical profession.


Vern May 5, 2022 at 6:29 pm

There’s always:

A free scooter removal service for private property owners/managers in San Diego.



Paul Webb May 5, 2022 at 6:35 pm

We as citizens shouldn’t have to call in a service to take care of these things. We should have meaningful, enforceable regulations and those regulations should be enforced.


Vern May 5, 2022 at 7:23 pm



Toby OB May 6, 2022 at 11:13 am

The usual intervention from the City of San Diego; let’s go ahead and make regulations and do nothing to enforce them.


Geoff Page May 6, 2022 at 11:54 am

I personally, am sick and tired of finding these things parked in the middle of sidewalks when there were easy places to put them off the sidewalk. I encountered one yesterday at Dog Beach and threw it over the k-rail onto the sand. I would like to see a very hefty ticket for anyone caught doing this. The lack of consideration for anyone else is stunning.


Greg May 6, 2022 at 2:37 pm

I get the frustration, but if you’re going to take the effort to lift one up please put it somewhere appropriate instead of onto our beaches/sand. That bums me out to see.


Geoff Page May 6, 2022 at 2:44 pm

No way, Greg. If there was a dumpster nearby, I’d throw it in there. The only way to get anyone’s attention is with a little pain. I’ve thought about disabling any one of these I see on the sidewalk but have not yet. Not yet.


Greg May 7, 2022 at 7:17 am

A dumpster is a good idea. Littering our open space….not so much.


kh May 7, 2022 at 1:34 am

I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of dragging many of these up from the cliffs, some logged with seaweed. The new models are f’n heavier than ever. And every time I pick one up it swings and smashes me in the shin.

Safest method is over the shoulder.


Greg May 7, 2022 at 7:18 am

Carried one up the cliff at south garbage when there was no rope. SO HEAVY


Geoff Page May 7, 2022 at 1:23 pm

Well kudos to both you and Gregg for doing that, I know how heavy the damned things are so that is a real effort. Much as it angers me how people park these things, throwing these and the bikes into the ocean is ridiculous.


sealintheselkirks May 8, 2022 at 1:12 pm

From the comments I see that the major complaint is not necessarily with the scooters themselves but with the behavior of the people who use them. Stupid thoughtless people are so prevalent in our population, eh?

We haven’t quite reached the level seen in the movie Idiocracy but this country sure seem to be trending in that direction. And it isn’t just San Diego, stupid is everywhere.

Big sigh.



Marina Teramond May 13, 2022 at 3:13 am

Of course, electric scooters are a really innovative thing which has a great deal of advantages and which is one of the most optimal variants for movement, but it is only one side of the coin. Unfortunately, really often people on electric scooters overstep boundaries and start to get impudent, breaking the law, but it must be stopped. It is so sad that the city of San Diego ignored the problem for so long because it only aggravated the state of affairs and it is an absolutely wrong policy which I can’t understand. Without any doubts, electric scooters can benefit us and change our life in a positive way if we use them smartly, but I think that people will not lead to this because, unfortunately, there are no prerequisites for such changes. I really hope that the situation with scooters in San Diego wil take a positive turns to some extent and this lawlessness will go away.


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