California Grapples With Scooter Mania

“On a street like Melrose, it feels crazy to be on the scooter,” said rider Jimmy Fowlie.

Vanessa Villanueva has not ridden an electric scooter but understands the perspective of scooter users who don’t want to be on the road.

“There will be less injuries between a scooter and a pedestrian and a scooter and a car,” she said.

Taking the sidewalk option off the table is what led some pedestrian-friendly groups like Los Angeles Walks to now support the new law which passed in the California State Senate days ago after passing in the Assembly earlier this summer.

The bill allows electric scooters to travel on streets with speed limits up to 35 mph. . The scooter will be allowed to travel up to 15 miles per hour. Riders can’t ride tandem, must have one hand on the handlebars and will still need a driver’s license to operate, but helmets will not be mandatory for people over 18 years old.

“It’s kind of become a staple of LA,” said Daniel. “As much as we need regulations, I think people should be able to have fun on their scooters.”

The bill keeps the door open for local rules about scooter use, but from Santa Monica, which has a pilot program, to Beverly Hills, with a temporary ban for these scooters, it’s not one-size fits all.

This week, the Los Angeles city Department of Transportation is sending cease-and-desist letters to scooter companies while LA works to figure out how to regulate.

City officials are playing catch-up to what some say is a form of getting around that is here to stay. Daniel, a student at UCLA this fall, said it’s one of the most popular ways of getting around campus.

Scooter company Bird said, “Our goal in supporting this legislation continues to be providing riders of shared scooters and e-bikes with more consistent ridership rules so that people can more easily embrace sustainable shared mobility options. We are pleased that the California State Senate shares this view and helped move this bill step one step closer to becoming law.”

The bill goes back to the Assembly for second vote, then it’s off to the Governor’s desk. A spokesperson for one of the authors of the bill said there have been talks to use geo-fencing technology to try to reduce speeds and stop a scooter if it goes into an area it’s not supposed to be in.

LA City Councilman Paul Koretz said these disruptive technology companies should have business licenses and pay taxes.

“Because state laws prohibits the use of scooters on sidewalks, without helmets and on any street with a speed limit above 25 mph (if it doesn’t have a class II bike lane), I argued that there seems to be no regulatory approach the Council could enact that wouldn’t cause enforcement nightmares,” said Koretz, who has introduced a motion to the Council’s Public Safety Committee. “Unfortunately, while the committee agreed with many of my points, they decided to recommend against a full moratorium and instead speed up the process of regulating the scooters and the companies that rent them as soon as possible.”

He said the decision supports an effort by the Council’s Transportation Committee to develop such regulations.

“I think the city of Los Angeles should clamp down harder on scooter rentals while regulations are developed, as has been done by our neighbors in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica,” he said. “However if we choose to pursue another approach, I will continue to fight for common-sense safety provisions to protect riders, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike.”

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