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Banning Scooters At The Boardwalks: Fair Or Frivolous?

People riding scooters and bicycles on the Mission Beach Boardwalk on July 29...

Photo by Matt Hoffman

Above: People riding scooters and bicycles on the Mission Beach Boardwalk on July 29, 2019.

Go the Mission Beach boardwalk, you will see electric scooters. Go to the Pacific Beach boardwalk and you will see them there, too. But you won't see them for long.

A split San Diego City Council voted 5-4 this week to ban all motorized devices, except for motorized wheelchairs, at city boardwalks. In addition to Pacific and Mission beaches, they're also banned at Mission Bay Park and La Jolla Shores starting in 2020.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

"To me it’s an issue of public safety," said District 1 Councilwoman Barbra Bry, who has made banning scooters one of her signature issues. "The boardwalks are classified as class one bike paths which means no motorized devices should be on them."

RELATED: San Diego City Council Bans Electric Scooters On Boardwalks

Reported by Matt Hoffman , Video by Roland Lizarondo

However, scooter accidents at the boardwalks are rare, according to San Diego Police.

"Instead of trying to use regulations and common sense solutions let's just ban the things — if we’re going to ban scooters because of accidents then you need to ban bicycles too," said District 7 Councilman Scott Sherman, who voted against the ban.

Sherman instead wanted to give current regulations restricting speed at the boardwalks more of a chance.

"It was six months ago that we passed the regulations and then, 'Oh six months later it doesn’t work,' even though all the numbers from everybody there showed the accidents and ridership on the boardwalk are down and they went right to a ban because it’s a group they’re trying to appease," Sherman said.

Data shows there were 441,000 scooter rides citywide during a two week period in July. Overall ridership declined to 277,000 rides during two weeks in September.

Still, Bry thinks San Diegans agree a ban is the right move. "I think the public is very supportive of banning the scooters," she said.

People interviewed by KPBS Wednesday at the Mission Beach boardwalk said scooter riders are a problem.

"I’ll take my chances on Mission Boulevard opposed to the chances with the scooters here (at the boardwalk)," said Lakeside resident Larry Lehman. "I don’t know, they’re just not courteous and they don’t care."

Matt Beatty lives in Ocean Beach.

"I think the scooters are great in places like North Park or Hillcrest where people use them for commuting or quick trips — but here they’re used for recreation and the people who are using them aren’t using them very seriously," Beatty said. "Sometimes they’re drinking, sometimes they have small children in tandem."

Sherman thinks scooter companies are caught in a political standoff.

"There’s nothing wrong with the scooters, the people using them recklessly that’s the problem," he said. "People do that with cars and we don’t ban cars."

Bird, the largest of the scooter companies, said it remains committed to staying in San Diego. Lime, another company, said it will wait to see how the company is impacted by a ban.

The ordinance will come up for a second reading at the council in January.

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Aired: December 19, 2019 | Transcript

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Photo of Matt Hoffman

Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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