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Santa Monica Bicyclists Could Share Lanes with Motorized Skateboards under Proposed California Legislation

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

April 8, 2015 -- Santa Monica bicyclists, take note: One of these days, you could be sharing your bike lane with motorized skateboards.

A proposed Assembly bill recently introduced by Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto would allow skateboards powered by rechargeable batteries to use bike lanes as long as riders follow the laws already in place for bicyclists.

“It makes no sense that an environmentally-conscious product that is designed and assembled in our state cannot be legally operated here,”  said Olsen, who held a demonstration day  Monday to garner support for AB 604, as it prepares for its debut before the Assembly Transportation Committee on Monday.

“AB 604 simply seeks to modernize California law so this industry can grow and provide more jobs and convenient transportation options for short commutes,” she said.

Santa Monica Councilwoman Pam O’Connor called the legislation “interesting” and said it was an idea that could work in Santa Monica.

“The challenge would be getting the two to get along,” she said of the skateboarders and cyclists. “I’ve always seen skateboards as a bona fide way of getting around.”

Olsen said electrically-motorized skateboards provide a safe and eco-friendly mode of transportation for commuters, yet current law bans them from being used in California.  The ban was implemented in 1977 to keep noisy, gas-powered boards off the streets, but boards built today are quiet, clean and safe to ride, she said.

It also comes as car-clogged Santa Monica continues to reinvent itself as a community that focuses on the use of alternative methods of transportation, like cycling and the increased use of buses and rapid transit like Metro’s Expo Line, which opens next year, officials said.

Allowing electric powered skateboards to share space on bike lanes just makes sense, said Allison Wescott, an Olsen spokesperson. 

They are easy to bring along on a bus or train to use for short-hops afterward, say to go to work, Wescott said.  Their use is a great answer to trips that are too long to comfortably walk but too short to drive.

The legislation makes note of California’s sever traffic congestion and air pollution problems, and says reducing the millions of single-passenger automobile trips of five miles or less can “significantly” reduce pollution caused by fuel emissions.

It would require the operator of the electric skateboard to be at least 12 years of age to ride them on bikeways and would prohibit speeds in excess of 20 miles per hour.

It also would require specified braking and lighting equipment. A violation would be considered an infraction.

The idea behind the legislation started with Geoff Larson and Ben Forman, co-founders of Intuitive Motion, which manufacturers the ZBoard.

Olsen said they were trying to come up with a device that was faster and easier to ride than skateboard and more portable than a bike. They were brainstorming for their senior project at USC.

“The team at Intuitive Motion and I are very excited about AB 604, as it will encourage Californians to get out of their cars and onto innovative and sustainable personal transportation vehicles,” Forman said in a statement.

“My hope is that this bill will encourage more companies to develop similar transportation models that will help make public transportation a viable options for a wider range of commuters by making the last mile between home, work and the transit station quicker and easier to travel to.”

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