IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Last Remaining Scooter Company Plans to Leave San Diego

The last scooter company willing to comply with San Diego's strict rules ceased operations in the city, just as officials prepared to propose softening some key regulations including on sidewalk speed-throttling.

(TNS) — The last scooter company willing to comply with San Diego's strict rules ceased operations in the city last weekend, just as officials prepared to propose softening some key regulations including on sidewalk speed-throttling.

The departure of Bird leaves the city with no scooter operators, just over a year after it adopted rules that limit scooter speeds on sidewalks to 3 mph and prohibit large and disorderly clusters of scooters.

That leaves San Diego without a convenient option for getting around that city officials say is crucial to fighting climate change and reducing congestion as neighborhoods become more densely populated.

It also leaves San Diego with 950 scooter corrals across the city that now serve no function, and with ongoing contracts with a scooter enforcement company and a scooter data analytics company that have nothing to enforce or analyze.

The softer rules proposed by the city this week aim to lure scooter companies back to San Diego by allowing the scooters to be deployed in more locations, lowering fees and softening San Diego's unusual sidewalk rule.

City officials expressed optimism this week that the companies will return within a few months and that the city's scooter program will eventually thrive.

But the scooter companies face hurdles that go beyond San Diego's rules, which they have called the strictest in the world.

Many scooter fans have bought personal scooters in lieu of renting them, while neighborhood shuttles and ride-hail services like Uber depress demand.

Scooter companies have also suffered from rampant theft of their devices. They say that problem is particularly acute in San Diego because of its proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border and because the city's rules require using the most advanced scooters, which are the most enticing to thieves.

A local scooter watchdog group called Safe Walkways says the city's proposal to soften regulations is caving to the industry and selling out residents who want their sidewalks safe and clear of clutter.

The key element of the city's proposal would be shifting away from its current requirement that scooters have technology that detects sidewalks and immediately slows the scooter to 3 mph on them. Instead, riders would get audio alerts when they ride onto a sidewalk.

Janet Rogers, leader of Safe Walkways, was critical of that proposal, contending it is exactly what the scooter companies asked for.

"Allowing the scooters to drive on the sidewalks again with only a noise beeping is not acceptable," she said. "The more noise, the more fun for these drivers. This proposal is putting pedestrians at risk again."

The proposal would also give the companies more flexibility on parking and staging scooters. Users would also be required to show identification only before their first ride, instead of once every three months, to prevent underage use.

In addition, the proposal would modify the city's fee structure from charging scooter companies for every device deployed each day to charging them only when a scooter gets used. Each company would still have to pay an annual $20,000 fee to operate in the city.

The City Council's Active Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is scheduled to discuss the proposals at a meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Alyssa Muto, director of the city's Sustainability and Mobility Department, said scooters remain a high priority.

"Providing a variety of micromobility options — including shared scooters and bikes — is important to the city's overall climate action goals and mobility needs of residents," she said.

"The city is disappointed that the shared mobility device operators have been unable to deploy in San Diego or chosen to temporarily suspend their programs," she said. "We look forward to devices returning."

Muto noted that scooter programs still exist on the campuses of UC San Diego and San Diego State University. Those contracts are separate from the city's program.

Bird officials declined to comment Tuesday on why they stopped operating in San Diego last weekend and whether the city's proposals might lure them back. But the company did call its move a "hiatus."

On its San Diego app, the company said, "San Diego we'll see you soon — It's time for our birds to take a winter snooze." The post went on to say that Bird is working with city officials to address its concerns.

© 2023 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Sponsored News
As municipalities emerge from shutdowns, slowdowns and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the transportation sector’s role in supporting the recovery is becoming more apparent.
By now, you’ve probably already heard plenty about data in intelligent transportation. By their very nature, technologies that support intelligent transportation programs capture massive amounts of data.