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San Diego City Leaders Consider Another E-Scooter Crackdown

The city is considering another bout of regulation around the on-demand devices, citing safety concerns. But experts are divided over whether or not the popular transportation option needs more rules.

Three Lyft electric scooters parked on a sidewalk. Photography
(TNS) — San Diego is considering another crackdown on electric scooters as usage has picked up after a lull during the pandemic.

The city wants to shrink the number of companies allowed to operate scooters, quadruple the annual fee they've been paying and require operators to respond to complaints about their scooters within one hour.

This comes as the city has removed parking in areas like North Park to encourage fewer people to take cars. A trip to North Park at night will see dozens of people on Lime, Bird and other electric scooters. Chicago, which had severely limited use of the scooters, recently announced it was bringing them back, citing rising gas prices.

San Diego officials, who have already passed several laws concerning e-scooters, say they are trying to strike a balancing act between neighborhood complaints and allowing a new industry to operate.

Q: Do e-scooter companies in San Diego need additional regulation?

Norm Miller, University of San Diego

YES: I love the scooter options for people and freedom, but the new proposals are reasonable and supported by Lime. We may need to provide more bike/scooter lanes in areas where parking has been reduced, so as to provide reasonable mobility choices. When the scooters pose a danger to pedestrians, as observed on the Pacific Beach boardwalk, then we need some more separation. We also do not want to provide free public space for staging areas, and the new proposals help to corral scooters.

Jamie Moraga, IntelliSolutions

YES: I'm not one who advocates for more regulation but in this case, it's for public safety. E-scooters and e-bikes are fantastic ways to get around quickly and affordably but there should be rules established and enforced to protect the general public, and to make riders more accountable. I see the way kids and teens ride around in our neighborhood and it's a tragedy waiting to happen. I do disagree with the proposal to quadruple fees and limit the number of operators — this continues to support the fact that California overregulates and isn't business-friendly.

David Ely, San Diego State University

YES: The proposal under consideration includes a number of sensible changes to enhance the safety of riders and pedestrians and to control where scooters are used and parked. Changes to better inform riders of the rules will be helpful, but enforcement of these rules will continue to be challenging. However, reducing the number of authorized scooter companies could lower competition. The proposed daily per-scooter fee should prevent an excessive number of scooters in the city.

Ray Major, SANDAG

NO: City officials should encourage all forms of alternative transportation if they ever hope to meet their aggressive climate action plan numbers. People will be reluctant to give up their automobiles unless an alternate form of transportation is provided. E-scooters are one of the alternatives people are willing to use, so reducing the number of scooters is counterproductive. What would make sense is to require e-scooter companies to provide services in a broader geographic area.

Lynn Reaser, Point Loma Nazarene University

Not participating this week.

Haney Hong, San Diego County Taxpayers Assoc.

YES: But not from the city of San Diego itself. The rules of the "scooter" road should have some uniformity across our metro area and across the state. If each city had its own Department of "Scooter" Vehicles, we might actually build bureaucracies worse than DMV. None of us want that; we just want some "common sense" courteousness that's only common if the regulation is done at a higher level of government.

Kelly Cunningham, San Diego Institute for Economic Research

NO: Considering past enforcement was loosely administered, will additional rules and heightened fees improve usage or even be applied? Can a city that takes up to a year reacting to requests for their burned-out streetlights expect companies to respond to complaints within an hour? For scooters to become a viable choice of mobility and safe public use while not aggrieving other transportation options, DMV laws should be applied as with any other motorized vehicle.

Phil Blair, Manpower

YES: Further regulation but not limitations. Scooters are a valid add to conserving on fuel and traffic. The city should charge for any costs to maintain safety for the scooters and the companies and riders need to be more diligent on clearing the sidewalks and vacant lots of scooters. Riders need to take more responsibility for following the rules of the road and dropping off scooters only in designated areas. Very similar to auto rentals.

Gary London, London Moeder Advisors

NO: Cities are seldom successful in striking a balance. Witness the upcoming regulation of short-term rentals. Rather than simply increasing the fees to address issues that are already codified (noise and parking), the city chose to dive into a restrictive lottery system. E-scooters can be a nuisance, but they are popular and an impactful transportation solution. Sure, increase the fees to create better enforcement capacity. But don't throw out the "baby with the bathwater!"

Alan Gin, University of San Diego

Not participating this week.

Bob Rauch, R.A. Rauch & Associates

YES: Currently, the scooters are all over the place with virtually no regulations or enforcement. Generally, I am for less regulation. However, when it comes to public safety, we need this. Scooters, like e-bikes, bicycles and other modes of transportation, must have enforceable and reasonable rules. Scooter companies must be held accountable, and San Diego's approach seems balanced. Reducing emissions and giving people transportation choices is noble.

James Hamilton, UC San Diego

YES: We want to encourage alternatives to cars but need to ensure public safety. Yesterday I saw someone texting on his phone while he was riding a scooter well inside the traffic lane. It should be as easy to report riders who pose a danger as it is to rent a scooter. If the company notified reckless users that they'd been put on a watch list and could lose rental privileges, it would solve many of the problems.

Austin Neudecker, Weave Growth

NO: Despite the complaints, scooters and e-bikes introduce an alternative to cars and parking for short trips. Logical restrictions on their use (zones with speed caps, designated parking, etc.) make sense but are mostly in place. Expand the rules to e-bikes and clarify safety requirements. Lower vehicle caps and increased licensing and per-ride fees will make rentals too expensive for most users. That may be the NIMBY goal, but it deprives us of an environmentally friendly, lower-cost option.

Chris Van Gorder, Scripps Health

YES: While I'm not in favor of even more legislation, there are two areas that do need to be regulated: safety and nuisance. At Scripps, we've seen many major head and other traumas from scooter accidents. So, from a safety standpoint, head protection and/or speed controls should be required because of how fast these vehicles can go. And from a nuisance standpoint, proper storage by the vendors should be required, and that should be outside of residential areas.

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