• San Diego's scooter problems that Seattle will want to avoid

    By: Graham Johnson

    Updated:

    Beside the sand and surf on the Mission Beach Boardwalk, they roll by.

    Electric rental scooters carry San Diego residents and visitors like Jacob Parsons. "They can zip around pretty easily," Parsons told KIRO 7.

    But it doesn't take long to find the scooter backlash.

    Beside a bunch of scooters blocking access to a sidewalk curb cut, Paul Thackery approached our camera crew and started yelling.

    "Look at this, they're taking over the sidewalk, this is for disabled people!"

    In parts of San Diego, we saw scooters strewn about, spilling out of designated parking places, or tipped over on sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to step around or over them.

    "Tell them to [profanity] off, don't let them come to your city, it's [profanity]," Thackery yelled.

    Frustration over scooters led bike shop owner Dan Borelli to co-found a company called ScootScoop, which impounds scooters left on private property.

    "We've taken 15,000 to date since last year," Borelli said.

    ScootScoop charges an impound fee to retrieve the scooters, although two companies have sued saying the seizures are illegal.

    But it's hard to find a lot of sympathy for the scooter companies in San Diego.

    "My constituents hate the scooters," said Barbara Bry, the San Diego City Council president pro tem and a candidate for mayor. "My constituents view the scooters as a public hazard."

    After three people in San Diego were seriously hurt falling off scooters over just a few days, she called for a temporary ban.

    "These are not bicycles, they are flimsy electric vehicles, and they are very dangerous and we have anecdotal evidence of an increasing number of injuries, some from just falling off," Bry said.

    On the Mission Beach Boardwalk, we saw some people riding two at a time on a scooter.
    Helmets in San Diego are not required for adults.

    "I've seen very few people wearing a helmet," Bry said.

    Scooters first appeared in San Diego early in 2018, essentially welcomed by the city without regulation.

    City officials acknowledge what happened next was "market saturation."

    Scooter rules didn't take effect until July of this year.

    The city now has designated parking spaces for scooters and GPS-enforced speed limits in busy spots.
    Seven companies currently have city permits for bikes, scooters or an in-between hybrid, although Uber recently pulled Jump scooters from the market.

    San Diego charges a fee for each of the 22,300 permitted scooters or bikes but there's no limit on the number of scooters.

    "We've seen here in San Diego that allowing them to deploy first, making rules second, does not work," Borelli said.

    "Be very cautious in how you let the companies enter your city," Bry said.
    Should Seattle expect the same problems?

    "Absolutely not," said Jonathan Hopkins of the micromobility company Lime. "And that's not just an idle claim because we're not having that happen in Spokane, we're not having that happen in Portland, and not in Everett nor Tacoma."

    Hopkins says scooters are working well in other Northwest cities.

    He points to Portland where companies are allowed to bring in more scooters if they meet city goals for acting responsibly.

    Lime says it has turned in "voluminous recommendations" to Seattle officials planning a scooter pilot the company says will bring a lot of benefits.

    "Getting people out of their cars, reducing pollution, reducing congestion and helping more people enjoy our great city because it’s not overly congested," Hopkins said.

    "We're really excited about scooters coming to Seattle," said Clara Cantor of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.

    Cantor said it's important to make sure scooters work for riders and for sidewalk users, especially those with disabilities.

    She said parking scooters in on-street bike corrals is ideal, because they create a space off the sidewalk for parking.

    And when they're close to an intersection in a spot where cars aren't allowed to park, drivers can easily look over them to see pedestrians crossing the street.

    "Having the scooter corrals in the street it's a win, win, win," Cantor said.

    The city plans is building corrals as it plans a test run for scooters in 2020.

    "That's sort of a target to have things on the ground next spring," said Sam Zimbabwe, Seattle's transportation director.

    Zimbabwe says the city is now hearing from the community on questions like how many scooters should be permitted and where they should be parked and ridden.
    Should scooters be in bike lanes?

    "Yeah, I do think it makes sense to have scooters in the street as much as possible," Zimbabwe said.
    Mayor Jenny Durkan, a lawyer, has been famously cautious about scooters, wanting to make sure the city is legally protected.

    By contrast, Seattle was quick to embrace dockless bikes, and faced problems with all the unauthorized places they ended up.

    Lime is campaigning the city to authorize scooters by January, when construction will reduce light rail service for 10 weeks.

    "Let's get this done by Jan. 1st so we can get people where they need to go," Hopkins said.

    "I don't want to put an artificial timeline out there for when we would have to be operational," Zimbabwe said.

    That slow approach makes sense to Dan Borelli of ScootScoop in San Diego.

    "Seattle should know they need to be firm, they need to be direct and they need to have a good set of rules in place before they allow them to deploy."
     


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