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City Council Approves Regulations For Dockless Scooters, Bikes

Electric bikes are seen parked in a newly painted dockless bike and scooter p...

Photo by Andrew Bowen

Above: Electric bikes are seen parked in a newly painted dockless bike and scooter parking area downtown, April 19, 2019.

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The new regulations require bike and scooter sharing companies to limit speeds in high-pedestrian areas and to respond to reports of abandoned or illegally parked devices.

Aired: April 24, 2019 | Transcript

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved new regulations for the growing market of dockless scooter and bike sharing, aiming to curb bad behaviors and improve safety.

The regulations put new requirements on bike and scooter sharing companies such as Bird, Lime and Razor to pick up and relocate devices parked illegally. The companies will have three hours to respond to reports of abandoned or illegally parked scooters or bikes, or the city can impound the devices.

The companies will also be required to automatically limit speeds on motorized scooters to eight miles per hour in designated areas, including the Mission Beach and Pacific Beach boardwalks and public walkways within Balboa Park. Speeds in pedestrian-only areas would be limited to three miles per hour.

State law already bans motorized scooters from being ridden on sidewalks or parked in places that block pedestrian or wheelchair access.

City Councilman Chris Cate said the regulations were just a starting point and would be fine-tuned as the city gathers more data.

"The technology has evolved from the beginning of this conversation a year ago in February to today," he said.

RELATED: Disability Lawsuit Targets San Diego Over Dockless Scooters

Councilman Chris Ward added a last-minute amendment that requires companies to stage their devices in designated parking areas off the sidewalk when they are available. The city has started painting those parking areas downtown and has plans to expand them to other neighborhoods.

Much of the public testimony in opposition to the ordinance related to reckless scooter riding on the Mission Beach and Pacific Beach boardwalks. Councilwoman Barbara Bry asked the boardwalks to be included in the areas where speeds would be limited to three miles per hour, rather than eight. The City Attorney's Office said it would bring that back as a clean-up amendment to the ordinance before the regulations go into effect on July 1.

Some residents called during public comment for a ban on motorized scooters on the boardwalks. Such a ban was considered by the council last year and failed in a 3-6 vote.

Supporters of the regulations said dockless scooters and bikes hold the potential to reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, and the best way to curb reckless riding on sidewalks is to build out the city's planned networks of protected bike lanes. A nine-mile network of protected bike lanes downtown was approved by the City Council in 2016, but lack of funding and planning delays have pushed its full completion years beyond the original timeline.

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