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Santa Monica Council Bans E-Scooters and Other Motorized Devices from Beach Bike Path, Pier and Parks
By Niki Cervantes
August 30, 2018 -- Reeling from a summer of electric-scooter-related chaos on already jammed byways, the Santa Monica City Council voted Tuesday to ban all electric and motorized devices from its beach bike path, the Pier and City parks.
The council amended and updated its traffic code to clarify language put into place decades before e-scooters, e-bicycles, Segways and motorized skateboards began zipping around Santa Monica.
Under the amended code, al devices not “human-powered” are prohibited.
The Council also approved a public right-of-way fee for “shared mobility devices” of $1 per device, per day, similar to the City’s outdoor dining license fees.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who has been pedaling along the City’s portion of the Marvin Braude regional beach bike path for decades, said it was time to curb the new devices.
“It’s so much worse than it has been in the past,” McKeown said.
The ban, he said, should help provide “a lull in the carnage going on (along) the bike path this summer.”
Councilmember Terry O’Day cast the only dissenting vote, although others shared his sentiment that the City should focus more on ways of reducing the public’s use of automobiles and less on imposing fees on new-age means of "modality," such as e-scooters.
“We’re picking on the wrong vehicles,” O’Day said. “It’s the 2,000 pound vehicle” the City should be regulating more, “not the 15 pound vehicle.”
Revenues from the right-of-way fee will be used for improvements such as expanding sidewalks and adding “green” lanes to make it easier and safer for cyclists, pedestrians and those on devices like scooters to get around the city.
Officials said the companies involved with e-scooters and e-bikes have not said whether they will pass the fee onto users.
After initially struggling with which new motorized vehicles should be covered by the ban -- the slower and more carefully crafted Segway was singled out as a possible exception to the ban -- the council opted for not allowing exemptions.
Council members said they will have a better idea of how to handle the situation after the City launches a 16-month pilot program controlling the number of e-scooters and e-bikes allowed to operate within the City.
At least two operators for e-scooters and two for e-bikes will be allowed under the pilot program. The City is expected to announce its choice of operators today.
The four companies will be allowed fleets of up to 500 e-bikes and 1,000 e-scooters, although each operator can, with City permission, enlarge if it can be shown e-bike fleet averages three rides per bike per day, and/or scooter fleet averages four rides per scooter per day.
The council also directed staff to study a possible speed limit on the beach bike path. Council expressed interest in the issue being revisited over time as new devices appear, and existing devices become more familiar to users.
The code enforcement division of the City’s police department is tasked with enforcing the ban, officials said.
In the meantime, the City will also study the possibility of creating a speed limit for new devices and is looking at creating e-scooter/bicycle corrals.
Officials hope the corrals will entice riders to park them in such locations, rather than dropping them haphazardly on streets, sidewalks and elsewhere.
Where to locate the corrals remains an issue, however. Placing them on sidewalks takes up space needed by pedestrians. Some suggest using parking spaces.
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