Scooter Companies Claim San Diego’s Strict Regs and Thefts Mar Otherwise Beautiful Deal

by on April 25, 2023 · 5 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

By David Garrick / San Diego Union-Tribune (LA Times) / April 17, 2023

Electric scooter companies say their ability to operate in San Diego is being severely hampered by city regulations combined with a sharp rise in scooter thefts that’s being blamed on the proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border.

City officials say a thriving scooter industry is crucial to their climate action plan because scooters can help solve the “last-mile” problem of getting to and from transit, potentially making transit convenient enough for people to give up commuting by car.

San Diego is the only major city in the nation to require something called sidewalk speed throttling, a safety-focused technology that quickly slows scooters down to 3 mph any time they are steered onto a sidewalk. Scooter companies say the regulation is well intended but too aggressive and arguably ahead of its time.

But a bigger problem, they say, might be thieves targeting scooters that are technologically advanced enough to comply with the rule. Theft rates have risen so high in recent months that scooter companies are limiting how many of the most advanced scooters they deploy, instead rolling out older, cheaper models that struggle to comply with sidewalk speed throttling.

“San Diego ought to be one of the best markets for scooters because of tourism and the weather,” said Brit Moller, head of public policy for scooter operator Spin. “But the deceleration requirement is jeopardizing the viability of the whole program.”

Some of the older models being deployed in San Diego fail to comply with the sidewalk throttling rule. But more often, they still comply with the rule — only in a way that makes the ride uncomfortable and unpleasant. “Our ridership is terrible,” Moller said. “It’s at an historic low.”

For the balance of this article, please go here.

Here’s some comments from U-T readers, including Gary Wonacutt, our Mission Beach roving reporter.

Scooter Companies Shouldn’t Complain About Strict Rules – Their Riders Don’t Follow Them Anyhow

#1: It is ironic to hear the scooter companies complain about the opportunity to put their products on the streets of San Diego.

The sidewalk rule was ignored almost universally by scooter riders until the speed control was introduced. Yes, the city has implemented rules at the behest of residents to protect both rider and pedestrian. Buildings, airplanes, cars and virtually everything in society must comply with rules and regulations to protect us all.

In Europe, many cities have extensive bicycle lanes in place making it easier for scooters to operate; San Diego does not and probably won’t for some time. And as far as theft; the scooter companies put a product with value to someone on the street in bunches with no security, in San Diego. Duh. Gary Wonacott of Mission Beach.

#2: Your front page had a picture of a gaggle of scooters on the Boardwalk in Mission Beach. No motorized vehicles or devices are allowed on the boardwalk.
While many people ride safely, the mindset of a person who pushes a button and goes is different from the mindset of the runners, walkers and bikers who enjoy the beach. Too often you have alcohol-soaked people winding their devices in and out of the people who are taking in the scenery and getting a workout. If you talk to any lifeguards who were employed in Pacific Beach during the times that scooters were legal, they will tell you about the number of times parties were injured on the boardwalk.

Even with many signs announcing where all motorized vehicles are prohibited, increasing number of scofflaws ignore the signs and speed down the boardwalk. One wonders if the renters and sellers of these devices inform their customers where they cannot ride them. I doubt it. — Kathy Voros of Linda Vista

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Greg April 26, 2023 at 7:26 am

Hate scooters but odd that newer cars have technology to geofence speed and not a whisper.


Vern April 26, 2023 at 11:28 am

Free scooter removal service for private property owners/managers in San Diego
Ph: 858-262-1912


kh May 2, 2023 at 3:45 pm

A bit ironic that the cover photo shows scooters staged in violation of the ordinance.

These companies made their bed with their irresponsible rollout, I have no sympathy. I called this a fad from the start. And the claims about solving 1st mile problems to mass transit is horseshit, always has been. These are toys for tourists, and the staging locations proves that. It’s simply not a viable business model if it has to rely on actual commuters and residents. Or on respect for our public spaces apparently.


nostalgic May 3, 2023 at 8:12 am

I have not read that the “1-Mile Transit corridors” requires sidewalks for the pedestrians to qualify. This means that it is a concept, not reality. But maybe I am wrong. Many communities do not have sidewalks everywhere.


kh May 3, 2023 at 3:16 pm

No, I believe the 1st and last mile problem is premised on pedestrians not wanting to walk a mile to a bus stop. Scooters would supposedly solve that problem.

And yet 1-mile to transit is the new criteria triggering density incentives and zero-parking rules.


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