June 13, 2024 #1 Local News, Information and Event Source for the Century City/Westwood areas.

Lawmakers Flock to Regulate Bird and Lime Scooters  

Flurry of state and local measures passed relating to electric scooters.

By Sam Catanzaro

Ever since electric scooters, first Bird and then Lime, hit the streets of Century City and the Westside last year, lawmakers at all levels of government have been playing catch-up trying to regulate these devices. This past month, however, several local municipalities passed legislation relating to scooters that stands to impact Century City.

The most significant change is that under a California Assembly bill recently signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, electric scooter riders over the age of 18 are no longer required to wear helmets. Most dockless scooter companies like Lime and Bird, however, prevent riders under the age of 18 from riding these devices to begin with.

“This bill gives adults the freedom to choose whether or not to wear a helmet when riding a motorized scooter,” wrote State legislative staffer Eric Thronson in a report to the California Assembly Transportation Committee.

This state law, which will go into effect on January 1, leaves room for local governing bodies to pass stricter safety measures.

A law passed by Los Angeles City Council on September 4 regulating e-scooters does not require riders to wear a helmet. At the time of printing, it is unclear whether Los Angeles lawmakers will act to require helmets in the city.

The Los Angeles rules limit scooter companies to 3,000 devices each within the City. Companies may add 2,500 devices in disadvantaged communities in Los Angeles and an additional 5,000 devices in disadvantaged communities in the San Fernando Valley. These numbers are not set in stone, however, as the Council requested the Department of Transportation to report back on the optimal number of scooters needed to fulfill riders’ needs while avoiding overcrowding.

“It’s important for us, if we’re going to address the traffic issue in our city, we need to embrace traffic solutions and live in a multi-modal city,” said City Councilmember Joe Buscaino at a press conference outside Los Angeles City Hall alongside officials from Bird, before the Council’s vote. Buscaino had proposed a 6,000 per company cap, but Council rejected this with a 4-9 vote.

In addition to the limits on the number of devices, the rules passed by the Council set a 15 miles per hour speed limit on scooters and e-bikes and requires companies to carry a $5 million liability insurance policy.

“The set of comprehensive and enforceable rules strike a balance between allowing dockless vehicles as a convenient, zero-emission form of short-trip transportation and holding dockless companies and users accountable for bad behavior,” wrote Councilmember Mike Bonin, who represents much of West LA.

Bonin represents much of the Westside where scooters concentrations are often the greatest of anywhere in the City but under the 3,000 per company cap, these numbers may decrease in areas like Century City. According to Bird, the company currently deploys 8,000 scooters throughout Los Angeles and estimates place the number of Lime scooters in a similar range.

Despite this potential for a reduced fleet size, Lime told Century City Westwood News that it support the regulations passed by City Council.

“Lime welcomes the Los Angeles City Council’s new regulations allowing companies to provide enhanced mobility options for the city’s residents,” a Lime spokesperson said. “In light of the council’s approval, Lime will obtain a conditional use permit to allow more of its affordable e-scooters and bikes to be available for local residents to use.”

Despite the passage of these rules, some West L.A. stakeholders worry about the enforcement of the law.

“Scooter enforcement is a big problem here,” said David A. Holtzman, President of the South Brentwood Neighborhood Association at the September Brentwood Community Council meeting.  “They are riding two at a time, they are riding underage and they are on streets they are not supposed to be on.”

At the community Council meeting, Holtzman asked Senior Lead Officer Maria Gray of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) if officers were issuing citations to riders using these devices illegally. Gray acknowledged that riders often break the law in front of law enforcement but said that officers have other priorities.

“It’s blatant,” Gray said.  “They zip in front of us and you think they would go over our toes they have so little respect, but it still comes down to resources and addressing the most egregious“As” and “Ks,” which are accidents and deaths.”

Holtzman, however, argued that issuing citations would set a precedent that could deter riders from breaking the laws in the first place.

“It would just be so easy if you made an example of some people. If you actually got out there and took the easy fish, the ones that are just riding right in front of you,” Holtzman said.

Gray, however, responded by saying the fear of citation may not prevent riders from operating these devices on the sidewalk and riding tandem, pointing to the example of how people still text on their phones even though it is against the law.

“Look at the number of tickets we write for cell phones and they still text and talk. It’s going to take some changes,” Gray said.

In addition to changes in Los Angeles and California law, Century City residents should also be wary of Santa Monica’s Shared Mobility Pilot Program. Under this program, new scooters and bikes from Uber and Lyft are available to riders in Santa Monica. If riders take these devices into West Los Angeles, a fine will be issued.

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