Lacking an ability to enforce beach scooter ban, city looks to operators for tech fixes
Changes could be coming for electric scooter riders in Long Beach regarding how fast they’re allowed to scoot down the beach bike path, if at all, as the City Council mulls policy changes before the city’s scooter pilot program concludes this month.
Scooters, which are governed by the California vehicle code, are currently banned from the beach bike path. City staff said the devices can end up there due to a lack of enforcement and scooters not being explicitly included in prohibited types of travel along the path.
Long Beach is testing an electric scooter pilot program, hoping to avoid problems others cities have faced
The City Council declined to take concrete steps to address the issue Tuesday night, voting instead to defer to one of its subcommittees in the coming weeks.
A full report on the pilot program is expected to be presented to the council before the end of the year. Officials could then deliberate on a more permanent policy as to where scooters can go, and how much it will cost to operators to deploy their scooters in the future.
As scooter popularity has increased in the city, so too have complaints that scooters have been abandoned in public rights of way and that riders have exhibited unsafe or illegal behavior while riding.
Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price brought the issue to the City Council Tuesday night in an attempt to expressly ban scooters from the beach bike path, but the conversation shifted to how the six companies currently part of the pilot program could use technology to “geo-fence” scooters out of certain areas.
“Right now they’re not allowed on the beach path,” Price said. “We’ve received a lot of complaints about this and what we hear is, ‘Why can’t you enforce this?’ And the reality is because we don’t have officers standing on the beach path enforcing these rules. But we do have technology.”
Last month the Los Angeles Times published an article about business owners requesting to be added to Bird scooter’s “no-go” zones on its app, which are marked by red patches that it requests riders to not park or ride its scooters.
Bird has acknowledged that it’s working on technology to alert riders when they enter these zones and possibly automatically slowing the scooters when they do. Bird is one of the scooter operators part of the city’s pilot program.
Thomas Lord, general manager of Lime, which also operates in Long Beach, said his company has the capacity to address both of the council’s concerns about how fast people are riding scooters on the bike path and scooters being abandoned there, but cautioned that by turning on those features Lime could be putting itself on uneven ground with competitors.
“We definitely have the technology to address both of those,” Lord said. “There are operators that don’t have that technology and in turning that technology on we put ourselves at somewhat of a competitive disadvantage from a consumer experience.”
Lord said in Santa Monica Lime limits riders to 8 miles per hour on the beach paths and does not allow riders to start or stop a ride on the beach path.
He added that if a rider does leave a scooter they won’t be able to end the ride until it’s in a zone that allows drop offs, meaning that the rider would continue to accrue the 15 cents per minute charge until it was removed from the beach path.
The prospect that a financial incentive could keep some riders from leaving their scooters along the beach path seemed to assuage some members of the council.
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While more changes could be hammered out in the coming weeks with the issue being sent back to committee some are pushing for a measured process in reaching any new policies.
Eighth District Councilman Al Austin noted that the beach is one of the city’s great assets, and said he didn’t want to limit access or limit a form of transportation that the city doesn’t fully understand yet.
“Whether this thing turns out to be the thing of the future or the thing of today, I can recall two or three years ago that people were lined up and they were concerned over hover boards,” Austin said. “I don’t see anybody riding hover boards anymore. I’d like to see us proceed with caution on this particular item.”
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