Scooters are here to stay.
That’s the decision expected Tuesday night when the City Council considers expanding and codifying the existing pilot program which would more than triple the number of scooters allowed in the city while placing more regulations on their vendors.
Under the new program, limits for vendors serving the city (four) and the number of scooters that would be allowed in Long Beach (6,000) would change from current levels set at six vendors and a maximum of 1,800 total scooters. Vendors would also have to help develop safety videos and require users to view them.
The staff recommendations could also implement annual fees for vendors like Bird and Lime for permits to operate in the city ($25,000) and for each individual scooter.
The proposed per-vehicle fee could charge as much as $120 for each scooter deployed in the city with a lower $40 option for vendors who deploy scooters to low-income neighborhoods. The report also suggested requiring vendors to adopt an alternate pricing model for low-income neighborhoods.
Under the pilot program, the city did not charge vendors to have their scooters used in the city and has lost revenue opportunities every month since the scooters were deployed last July. The new fee structure largely mirrors other Southern California cities like San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
City estimates of how much new revenue could be brought in by the new fee structure range from $100,000 to $750,000 annually. The new funds would be deposited into the Public Works general fund and be used for improving infrastructure and offsetting the costs of any new staff needed to run and enforce the city’s scooter program.
Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce who represents the city’s downtown and much of its coastline, said that she might pursue augmenting the fee structures from a per-vehicle charge to a fee that is based on the number of rides. Pearce said that her concern is that the costs might be passed onto riders and would adversely impact those who have seen the scooters as a low-cost alternative to driving or using ride-share options like Uber or Lyft.
“I have a lot of constituents that use them instead of cars,” Pearce said. “That’s one of the goals of our city is to get more people out of their cars to help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”
She noted the concerns of residents who reported scooters being parked in unsafe areas and riding on sidewalks. She added that the new rules governing operators should balance community concerns and riders’ needs and that it was important to ensure the right vendors, the correct amount of scooters and designated parking spaces exist in the city going forward.
The city started its pilot program for scooters in the summer of 2018 and the introduction of scooters to the city brought mixed results but opinions.
Commuters along the coast and downtown could be seen racing through the streets on the electric devices but their zipping and zagging drew complaints and criticism from other residents.
According to data provided by the scooter companies participating in the program (including Bird, Lime, Razor, Skip, Spin, Uscooter), riders in the city totaled about 42,490 rides per month and traveled an average of 72,998 miles.
Councilwoman Suzie Price who represents southeast Long Beach, an area of the city that has received some of the strongest pushback against scooters, said that her constituents have seen the scooter program become a neighborhood nuisance.
“It’s a blight in the neighborhood and I think it’s a roadway obstruction at times because they’ll just dump them anywhere, like in the middle of the traffic circles that we have on our bike boulevards,” Price said. “They’ll just be laying right in the middle of the beach path. If you’re riding a bike or running you literally have to go around it or else you’re going to trip.”
Price said she’s opposed to such a drastic spike in the number of allowable scooters in the city and said that city staff needed to focus on ensuring that the rules being proposed are being followed, possibly by using revenue collected from scooter companies to fund a compliance officer to issue citations.
“For me, the biggest issue is going to be enforcement,” Price said. “How are we going to enforce these regulations? How are we going to ensure that they comply? That’s important and I hope that city staff understands that the majority of these hot spots are in the coastal zones. The council members that represent these districts are seeing the major impacts of non-compliance by the operators.”
Price had previously sought to ban scooters from the bike path in October citing the unsafe speeds that riders were traveling at and the dangers posed by riders who left scooters behind in the path of cyclists and runners.
The city is currently unable to enforce a ban on the bike path because there is no existing ordinance, but a new ordinance that could be drafted in the wake of Tuesday’s vote and technological fixes such as “geo-fencing”—the ability for vendors to limit access and speeds in areas using the scooters’ GPS system—could help solve some of the issues.
A city survey was released in November 2018 to gauge the community’s response to the introduction of scooters.
The survey yielded nearly 2,000 responses with 55 percent of respondents saying that the scooters filled an important transportation need. However, 43 percent said that nothing could change their minds to begin riding scooters with the most common responses being that they are a nuisance and a public hazard.
Nearly a third of the responses came from Price’s district.
Citywide, complains have ranged from people not wearing their helmets—a new state law exempts adults over the age of 18 from having to wear them—to scooters being driven on the sidewalks or on streets with posted speed limits above 25 miles per hour. When asked if they had been advised of laws and regulations by the vendors more than 70 percent of respondents answered “no.”
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