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San Diego City Council Bans Electric Scooters On Boardwalks

People ride electric scooters on the Mission Beach boardwalk, July 3, 2018.

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: People ride electric scooters on the Mission Beach boardwalk, July 3, 2018.

The San Diego City Council voted 5-4 Monday to approve a prohibition of electric scooters on the city's boardwalks.

The ordinance would ban the use of motorized vehicles, not including motorized wheelchairs, on the Mission Beach and Pacific Beach boardwalks, Mission Bay Park Bayside Walk and the La Jolla Shores Boardwalk. The council also voted in favor of an amendment to the city's existing regulations of dockless motorized vehicles to reduce speed limits on the boardwalks from 8 mph to 3 mph.

Councilwomen Barbara Bry and Jennifer Campbell, who represent much of the city's coastal neighborhoods, favored the ban. They argued that the boardwalks are Class I bike paths, meaning only pedestrians, bicyclists and people using non-motorized forms of transportation are allowed to use them.

"In the beach areas, there are physical streets and alleyways that can be used if someone indeed needs to travel on a motorized scooter for a transportation option," Bry said.

But opponents of the ban said pushing scooter riders to adjacent streets would make people even less safe because those streets have no bike lanes.

"I am severely nervous that by doing so we are going to shift more individuals onto Mission Boulevard," said Councilman Chris Ward. "And then you all of a sudden have conflict with automobiles, and that's where the deaths occur."

RELATED: Faulconer Proposes Late-Night Curfew For Dockless Scooters

Ward also criticized the ordinance going straight to council and circumventing the committee process, where council members could have discussed the proposal and modified it if necessary. Councilman Scott Sherman argued that the regulations have already led to a decline in collisions and other accidents involving scooters and motorized vehicles.

"We need to finally just decide: is the boardwalk for pedestrians, or is it a bike path or what is it?" Sherman said. "Because that's really I think at the heart of the issue here and not coming up with a ban and trying to jump to a ban really quickly when we've only seen regulations in place for six months and we're starting to see good numbers from those regulations."

Sherman and Ward were joined by Council President Georgette Gomez and Councilman Chris Cate in opposing the ban. Council members Monica Montgomery, Mark Kersey and Vivian Moreno voted with Bry and Campbell in favor of the ban.

At least one death — that of a 48-year-old man in June — was caused by a dockless scooter collision on the Mission Beach Boardwalk. That death occurred prior to the enforcement of the city's regulations, which went into effect July 1 and limited scooter speed limits on the boardwalk to 8 mph.

The council first approved the regulatory package for dockless scooters and other similar vehicles in April, more than a year after scooter companies like Bird and Lime made the devices ubiquitous around the city.

RELATED: Disability Lawsuit Targets San Diego Over Dockless Scooters

At the time of that vote, Bry and Campbell called for a full ban on scooter and motorized vehicle use on municipal boardwalks. The amendment package ultimately only included speed limits in high trafficked areas such as the boardwalks, Embarcadero and Spanish Landing.

Bry has made the conflicts surrounding motorized a central issue in her campaign for mayor. In July, she called for a citywide moratorium on dockless scooters due to safety concerns and the city's impoundment of a large swath of devices during Comic-Con weekend.

Last month, the council's Active Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a set of additions to the regulatory ordinance, including a rider curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. and increased measures designed to keep residents without a valid government ID from operating a dockless scooter or other similar device. The full council is expected to consider the amendments in early 2020.

The council is expected to hold a second, ratifying vote on the boardwalk ban in January. Unless at least one member of the council changes their vote from a "no" to a "yes," the ordinance would not have a veto-proof majority.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer supported a motorized scooter ban on the boardwalks in 2018, but the council at the time rejected the proposal 6-3.

Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

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