Following the shared bike craze, electric scooters seem to have taken its place as the most trending transportation alternative in cities like Los Angeles. However, with a large number of scooters appearing to pour into the city overnight, several cities are working to ban or heavily regulate the scooters.
The Beverly Hills City Council passed an ordinance on Tuesday, July 24, which prohibits shared electric scooters from being placed and operated in any public area or offered for use in the city for a 6-month period.
The ban came as a result of several vehicle collisions involving electric scooters, as well as problems created by people riding scooters on sidewalks and abandoning them on the street, said the city in a statement. Beverly Hills police have reported that around 100 warning and 75 citations have been issued for violations of the California Vehicle Code involving scooters, according to a presentation during the meeting.
Scooter rental companies, such as Bird, Lime and Uscooters tried to urge the city to implement regulations instead of a ban. However, the city council denied their plea, citing “concern for public safety and a lack of any advanced planning and outreach” by the companies.
In cities that aim to build up public transportation, the first-mile and last-mile connections are among the most critical issues to solve, which means connecting people from their starting or ending point to the bus stop or metro station. With a speed up to 15mph and a cost as low as $1, dockless electric scooters gives residents a convenient and cheap option to close that gap or even just to have some fun.
According to Bird, around 1,000 shared scooters gave 50,000 people about 250,000 rides in the city of Santa Monica in a 6-month period. From investors’ perspective, high demand indicates the shared scooter industry could be very promising.
Startups like Bird and Lime have been valued at billions of dollars and have raised over $600 million this summer to grow their businesses. It’s estimated that $3.5 billion was invested into scooter- and bike-rental startups globally in the first half of 2018, according to data firm CB Insights.
Feedback from Residents and Cities
With thousands of scooters dumped into cities recently, residents have had mixed feelings. Although the scooters are helpful in mobilizing people, they also cause headaches for many pedestrians and motorists.
Under a pilot program in Santa Monica, only four companies are now authorized to place their scooters into the city, with an application fee of $20,000 plus $130 charged for each scooter. The Santa Monica Police Department reported that over 1,400 stops were conducted by officers and almost 700 citations were issued during the first 5 months of this year. People riding scooters in restricted areas has also led to a large number of scooters impounded by the police.
In cities like West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, which are not equipped for scooters, riders are more likely to take over sidewalks, which can cause problems.
“Our sidewalks are part of the commons and we already have severe competition for what happens on the commons,” said West Hollywood Mayor John Duran.
For people who have grown to dislike the shared scooters, they’ve come up with some “creative” ways to make the scooters disappear. One Instagram account called Bird Graveyard, with more than 13,000 followers, posts videos of people “executing” the shared scooters.
Scooter companies released a statement that they will investigate and work to prevent this kind of vandalism. However, the popularity of this one Instagram account offers evidence that the controversy over shared scooters is far from over.