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Wheels Settles Lawsuit with City, DA

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By Lookout Staff

October 6, 2021 -- A shared mobility company that operates a fleet of no-pedal e-bikes in Santa Monica has reached a $300,000 settlement with the City and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Wheels Labs, Inc. operated in the City without licenses and permits from February to June 2019 before it became one of the City's permitted operators, according to the City Attorneys office.

The company -- which became a permitted operator in Santa Monica’s second Shared Mobility Pilot Program -- agreed to pay the settlement amount last week.

A portion of the funds will go to the street safety organizations Sustainable Streets and Los Angeles Walks, City officials said.

“Like many burgeoning technologies, shared mobility has rapidly changed the transportation sector," said Eda Suh, Chief of the Public Rights Division of the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office.

"But, like all companies operating in Santa Monica, shared mobility operators must comply with all local laws so that the City can provide safe streets and sidewalks for all, and ensure fair competition among companies,” Suh said in a statement.

During the second Shared Mobility Pilot Program -- which kicked off on July 1 and will run through March 2023 -- four private companies are permitted to operate a variety of different mobility devices.

In addition to Wheels, Lyft operates Class 1 e-bikes, Spin operates 2-wheeled and 3-wheel standup e-scooters and Veo operates 2-wheeled standup e-scooters and Class 2 e-bikes.

According to City officials, Shared Mobility Services provide "more low-emission mobility options (that) can create a more diverse, convenient, and accessible transportation network that would reduce emissions and congestion and improve the quality of life in the city.

"However, like with all new technologies, shared mobility devices can also pose significant challenges with regard to appropriately managing the public-right-of-way (PROW), encouraging public safety, and adapting old regulations to new business types," officials said.

To curb the runaway use of the devices, the City chose select companies to operate a limited number of devices.

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