Disability lawsuit targets Long Beach over electric scooters

A federal lawsuit filed last month is targeting Long Beach and six other Southland cities alleging that dockless electric scooters are creating hazards for disabled people.

In addition to Long Beach, the proposed class action lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Acts targets Culver City, Riverside, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine and Garden Grove, as well as the scooter companies Bird and Lime.

The suit was filed by a group of disabled Southern California residents, including a paraplegic woman from Anaheim, a Mission Viejo woman with lower body weakness and a single-leg amputee from Los Angeles.

In the lawsuit, the group said disabled people are struggling to maneuver past the ubiquitous scooters as they block sidewalks, ramps and other public walkways. The scooters also create a hazard as riders zoom by on roads and sidewalks at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour, the suit said.

The suit said many disabled people are now discouraged from using pedestrian rights-of-way because of the humiliation and frustration of navigating around abandoned scooters.

The controversial scooters have been popping up in cities across the country, and feedback has been mixed as officials struggle with how to regulate them and residents, meanwhile, complain of scooters littering the sidewalks.

Long Beach has been running its electric scooter pilot program since last fall. To mitigate some concerns about scooters littering the streets, the city was one of the first to require that companies place scooters on sidewalk drop zones after they are recharged each day.

Last month, the City Council voted to expand the pilot program and double the number of scooters while it explores a permanent program. A fleet that currently includes 1,800 scooters citywide will be able to grow by up to 4,000 during the extended pilot period.

In its lawsuit, the group said the business model of e-scooters is based on the illegal use of public property for private gain.

“(The e-scooter) rise through exploitation of public property for corporate profit, comes at the injury, suffering, discomfort, discrimination, humiliation, anxiety, severe detriment and prejudice of the rights of the tens of thousands of disabled persons,” the suit said.

Representatives of Bird and Lime could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Kelly Puente is a general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. Her prolific reporting has taken her all over Southern California—even to the small Catalina Island town of Two Harbors. She is a Tiki mug collector and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].