LA Could Join The Scooter Ban Wagon While The City Sorts Out New Rules

People ride shared electric scooters in Santa Monica on July 13, 2018. Scooter startups including Bird and Lime allow riders to park them anywhere that doesn't block pedestrian walkways, but residents in some cities, including here in Los Angeles, say they often litter sidewalks and can pose a danger to pedestrians. (Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

By Emily Henderson and Meghan McCarty Carino

Los Angeles leaders may hit the brakes on electric scooters — at least for now.

A new motion introduced by City Councilman Paul Koretz calls for a city-wide ban on electric scooters while City Hall decides on regulations for the devices. After the rules are finalized, scooter companies like Bird and Lime would be able to apply for permits to operate in L.A.

"Until firm regulations are in place to protect riders (and) pedestrians, I've asked the City Council to adopt an interim ban on motorized scooters," Koretz said on Twitter. "Better safe than sorry."

This isn't the first move to rein in the companies that own and distribute electric scooters, which have boomed in both popularity and contempt — especially on the Westside.

Beverly Hills recently banned the scooters for six months while new rules are drafted, and Santa Monica has strengthened its regulation and police enforcement as well. Last month, the city of West Hollywood banned them indefinitely.

And just this past weekend, Newport Beach removed at least 50 Bird scooters the company had dropped off on sidewalks in the city, the Daily Pilot reported.

The pro-scooter crowd sees them as a zero-emission mobility solution that could take cars off our already congested roads. But for some residents, the scooters are at best a nuisance and at worst an unmitigated public safety hazard.

"What we're looking at is a moratorium, a ban, similar to what Beverly Hills is doing, until we have rules and regulations that are common sense," City Councilman Mitch Englander, who seconded Koretz's motion, told KPCC's Take Two.

The other big issue is avoiding lawsuits. Englander explained that without the right rules and regulations in place, the fear is that riders or bystanders who are hurt by the scooters could try to hold the city accountable, meaning taxpayers would foot the bill.

The city is exploring rules for when and where riders could use the scooters, Englander said. The council plans to ask the public and other scooter-filled cities for input as they draft new code.

The regulations could take a few months to iron out, but Englander said the goal isn't to eliminate the inarguably convenient transit option — just to make them less of a disruption.

"I'd rather get it right than rushed," he said.

But not everyone on the council agrees with the ban.

"We need smart regulations for dockless scooters, not a total ban," said Councilman Mike Bonin, who chairs the council's Transportation Committee and is a strong supporter of policies that encourage transit alternatives to cars.

"Scooters are a popular, convenient zero emission form of transportation," he added. "If we are serious about combating climate change, cutting emissions, or reducing gridlock, we need to put our mobility where our mouth is."

Bonin said he's heard from many people who are already using the scooters as transportation on a daily basis, and he thinks enforcement of existing rules would address most of the complaints before the city approves its own dockless regulations.

For instance, the state already prohibits riding motorized vehicles on the sidewalk, and the city's Bureau of Sanitation is empowered to remove objects that are blocking the public right of way.

And the explosion in scooters' popularity shows that they are fulfilling a demand for new mobility options, according to USC urban planning professor Lisa Schweitzer.

"If you want to ban scooters, then you guys gotta give us another idea, because this microtransit niche is real," she said. "Are you going to fund a bunch of public van pools? Are you going to innovate moving sidewalks? Invest in hydrogen hover boards? This idea of helping people overcome a last mile problem in Southern California is a big barrier to getting people on transit. We're not going to be able to run that rail to within a five minute walk of everyone's house."

This story has been updated.

Editor's note: A version of this story was also on the radio. Listen to it here on KPCC's Take Two.


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