Long Beach is testing an electric scooter pilot program, hoping to avoid problems others cities have faced

Electric scooters are headed for the streets of Long Beach after city officials approved a roughly four-month pilot program that begins this month.

The move comes after multiple scooter companies approached the city to gain access to Long Beach streets. The scooter program will operate similarly to the city’s existing bike share program, in which users can rent a scooter for a flat initiation fee—typically $1—and then pay about 15 cents for every minute the scooters are in operation.

Scooter use will be limited to those over 18, and riders will be required to wear helmets while operating on city streets. The vehicles can travel up to 15 mph.

While riding scooters is currently illegal under the city’s municipal code, the scooters can be parked on the street or on city sidewalks as long as they provide room on public right of ways and don’t create hazards that would violate the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Vendors will initially be limited to 150 scooters each when they officially introduce their program to Long Beach, but they could eventually apply for a second license that would allow them to double their scooter presence. Michelle Mowery, a mobility and healthy living programs officer with the city, said that six vendors were at a meeting Monday to begin the process of the pilot program and that they would be dispersed throughout the city.

“We’re going to divide them up because, depending on the number that we are contacted by, we’re going to divide the city into regions,” Mowery said.

The city will collect information such as who is using the scooters and how they perform in different parts of the city, she said. After the first month of operation, vendors will have to provide the city with a progress report.

Mowery said parameters for a permitting process have yet to be ironed out and the city would learn as it moves forward which vendors are being compliant and which ones are “more difficult.”

The introduction of scooters from companies like Bird and LimeBike have produced outrage in some cities, with some accounts of the vehicles accumulating and blocking pedestrian walkways or zooming past people on sidewalks. Some cities, such as San Francisco, have passed emergency ordinances to better regulate the scooters; others, such as Miami, have banned them.

Which vendors will be part of the city’s pilot program was not disclosed.

Los Angeles recently began debating regulations for operators within its borders and could allow each operator to rent as many as 2,500 scooters per company. Whether the Long Beach program becomes permanent, or more robust, will largely depend on the performances of the vendors and their customers over the next few months.

“Basically we told them for the program to be a success we need to be able to solve all these problems now,” Mowery said.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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