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Santa Monica Prepares to Update Its Traffic Code Amid a Scooter Craze
By Jorge Casuso
August 27, 2018 -- Decades ago, when sections of the Santa Monica municipal code were written regulating vehicles on City streets and paths, electric scooters were still years in the future.
So were the electric bikes, Segways and motorized skateboards now seen zooming around the beach city.
On Tuesday, the City Council is expected to update the code to regulate such vehicles, particularly on the beach bike path, the Pier and in public parks.
"While the Code is clear about what is allowed on the Beach Bike Path, it was not specific about what is not allowed other than everything not on the allowed list," police staff wrote in their report.
The updated code would incorporate express references to “non-auto” mobility devices as defined by the California Vehicle Code.
This, City staff said, "will clarify the law and reduce questions about enforcement and regulation of such devices throughout Santa Monica."
The proposed changes come as the City prepares to launch a pilot program September 17 that will regulate the number of electric scooters that have flooded the City since they were first introduced last September.
City officials are expected to pick two operators for scooters and two for electric bicycles by the end of the month ("Santa Monica Launches Pilot Program for Electric Scooters, Bicycles," June 13, 2018).
The sudden scooter craze -- which has gripped many tourists and visitors -- has posed safety hazards on Santa Monica's busy streets.
Police have been enforcing traffic laws and the City has launched an education campaign to educate users of the new vehicles.
Since the campaign began, SMPD has advised more than 4,000 electric scooter riders, collected nearly 3,000 electric scooters from the beach bike path and issued approximately 1,000 citations, according to the staff report.
Police also responded to 13 serious injury incidents involving electric scooter riders.
"The sudden emergence of e-scooters presented a new set of hazards including lack of rider education," police staff wrote.
Pressure to enforce the law increased after a seven-year-old boy lost several teeth in a collision with a motorized scooter, prompting his mother to post an online petition to ban the vehicles there.
The petition on Change.org has been signed by more than 1,500 people, 300 on the first day ("Santa Monica Mother Launches Petition Drive After Son Injured by Motorized Scooter," July 18, 2018).
By then, police and City officials had been grappling with possible changes to the outdated code to make the prohibition of newer vehicles more explicit and to expressly prohibit their use on the bike path, the Pier and in City parks.
The proposed ordinance also combines, streamlines and updates provisions that address leaving or placing property in the right of way or on public property and the electric vehicles' use on one-way streets.
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