Santa Barbara City Impounds Ride-Share Scooters
Source: City of Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara awoke [Friday] morning to about 100 electric scooters lining Downtown State Street sidewalks. The company Lime Bike, based in San Mateo, CA, placed the electric scooters despite conversations with City Officials about existing Municipal Code regulations that conflict with the scooter deployment. “We see the electric scooter share as potentially having transportation and economic vitality benefits to the City. But we are also concerned about the safety of our citizens and their use of the scooters,” said Rebecca Bjork, Public Works Director.
Electric scooters are placed on the sidewalk with onboard indicators to use a phone app to pay for and use it. When done with a ride, the user leaves the scooter and it becomes ready for the next user. The phone app lets users know where to find a scooter, among other information.
Over the past two months, the City has learned much about launches of scooter shares in other communities, sometimes multiple companies launching within weeks. While clear benefits exist, scooters are causing controversy and safety issues. Scooters can be left in the travel path of the sidewalk and become a trip hazard to pedestrians. Many are ridden on the sidewalk. Although riding an electric scooter by state law requires a helmet, the companies typically do not provide them. Clutter is also an issue as scooters are often piled in certain locations, like transit stops. Where the scooters have already landed, cities are scrambling to write legislation to ensure the scooter share industry can be rolled out safely and within the context of each city.
Realizing this, City staff is bringing an emergency ordinance to City Council on June 19. The goal of the ordinance is to bring safety and accountability to scooter share and its providers through a limited one-year pilot program. While scooter share may provide some transportation benefit and much needed economic stimulus, staff believes it needs to be rolled out well and monitored for safety compliance and needed adjustments that are in line with Santa Barbara. The City also has some existing rules that enable Staff to impound the electric scooters should a company launch without City oversight. Staff has met with or been in contact with four companies regarding this pending ordinance discussion, as well as existing rules and impound procedures.
Lime Bike was notified of the pending actions and existing rules as well. Lime Bike inquired about launching 100 scooters as a test to see if they will work in Santa Barbara. While City staff stressed to the staff at Lime Bike the importance working with the Santa Barbara community and working within the process, it has chosen to put scooter out on the street [Friday]. The City notified Lime Bike immediately by phone and in writing that scooters will be impounded [Friday] at 1:00pm. The impounding [was in process Friday afternoon] and is being conducted by Public Works with assistance as needed from the Police Department.