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City Council Approves Regulations For Dockless Scooters, Bikes

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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.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Cars and trucks are the largest creator of greenhouse gas emissions. Supporters of motorized scooters in doc was spike say they have the potential to decrease emissions and reduce congestion, but since they were introduced in the city, we've seen riders and bystanders injured in city members frustrated over where they're written and parked the San Diego City Council last night voted on regulations to try to address some of those concerns. Kpbs Metro reporter Andrew Bowen joined us to discuss the rules for doc was bikes and scooters in the city. Andrew, welcome. Thanks jade. So first walk us through the regulations on doc plus bikes and scooters at the council approved yesterday. Yeah, companies that want to operate doc plus bikes and scooter sharing in San Diego, I have to apply for a permit. They have to meet several requirements in order to get one and they'll have to limit speeds of the devices to eight miles per hour in certain high pedestrian areas, even lower three miles per hour in pedestrian only areas where bike and scooter riding is prohibited.

Speaker 1: 00:56 And they'll do that through geo fencing, which basically means when a device enters a certain area, the automatic lower speed limit is triggered on the device. Companies will have to share anonymous trip data with the city to help the city prioritize infrastructure and where to enforce the laws. Staging of devices are also regulated. The city, um, has painted boxes on streets downtown for bike and scooter parking. And when those are around, the devices have to be staged there by the companies rather than on the sidewalk. There's a regulation for how quickly they have to respond to reports of abandoned or illegally parked devices and failure to comply with any of these things could mean that the city revokes their permit and they would not be allowed to operate in the city anymore. And how about riding on sidewalks or riding without a helmet? Yeah. Both of those things were addressed in a state law that passed last year.

Speaker 1: 01:40 Writing motorized scooters on sidewalks is already illegal under state law. Riding without a helmet is legal for adults. It's required for children, however, but the justification for those rules, at least with the helmets is that adults are not required to wear helmets on bikes. So why should the rules be any different for scooters? Also, while wearing a helmet can save somebody's life or you know, decrease the risk of injury. Uh, research has also shown that mandatory helmet laws have little impact on the actual behavior. They're actually more likely to reduce the use of scooters and bikes than actually get people to wear those helmets when they ride them. And Council woman, Barbara Bree, who represents some of San Diego's beach areas, one of the speed on the boardwalks to be three miles per hour, but the approved regulation is set at eight miles per hour. Is that a change that will be enacted before the regulations take effect in July?

Speaker 1: 02:29 I think that it's pretty likely the council will go along with Barbara Perry's request. The city attorney suggested that it would be easier and simpler if they just brought that back as a separate amendment to the ordinance before it takes effect in July. Uh, Bree and her colleague Jen Campbell, who also represents beach communities, wanted to complete ban of scooters on the boardwalks. A lot of the public testimony basically said the reckless riders have made it extremely dangerous for pedestrians. They've seen lots of injuries and it's just a less safe environment for everyone. But the council rejected a band last year and I don't think that people's minds have necessarily been changed. So the limit to three miles per hour, um, through the same kind of Geo fencing technology that I mentioned on the boardwalks could be a compromise that everyone is willing to live with. So I mean, so is the speed limit regulation then expect it to go ahead and decrease the number of scooter related injuries?

Speaker 1: 03:21 I think it could reduce the conflicts when scooter riders collide with pedestrians or with other writers in those particular areas. But it won't have any impact on conflicts between scooter riders and cars. It won't have any impact on folks riding on sidewalks because the geo fencing technology is not sophisticated enough to detect when someone is riding on the sidewalk versus writing on, on a street. And that problem can only be addressed with enforcement or safer for infrastructure. So for a less experienced rider riding on the street would be terrifying. You're surrounded by these vehicles that could literally kill you. And so for them, I think I'm riding on a sidewalk is a logical decision even though it might not be a safe one. And the approval of these regulations is the conclusion of something that's really been a long time in the making. Right? Yeah.

Speaker 1: 04:06 So for the past year, the mayor has taken a fairly hands off approach to doc lists a scooters and bikes, uh, supporters say this has been good, that San Diego has become kind of a proving ground for this new technology. And, uh, the companies have been able to, or given the space to innovate and figure out ways to improve the technology in San Diego. Um, critics say that the mayor was simply waited too long and allowed these public safety issues to fester. And do you know if there are any plans to add to the areas that are designated for reduced speeds or to add additional regulations in the future? I think that's very likely. One thing that the council said was this, uh, several accounts members said was this is just the beginning. They'll have time to revisit the regulations, the future and find tune them and uh, the mayor's office and city staff plan on going back to the council with regular updates on, on the impact of, of how these, uh, these regulations have actually impacted user behavior and things like that. So scooter writers should be writing in bike lanes in the city, as we mentioned earlier, but we have issues on that front. Here's councilman Mark Corsee at the meeting last night.

Speaker 2: 05:09 Ultimately, the amount of planning and resources that are necessary to build out the infrastructure that we know we all need a, when it comes to a protected bike lanes and things like that, it's expensive and it takes a long time. These scooters, we're literally just dumped on the city.

Speaker 1: 05:24 So where are we at and improving our biking infrastructure. The city council approved a network of nine miles of protected by Queens downtown in 2016. So almost three years ago. The network was supposed to be complete by this summer, but, uh, that is not going to happen. Uh, it's instead of being completed in phases, we've also seen several bike projects at protected bike lanes from Sandag face delays of several years. And I think that many other cities in the United States and in the world have shown that safe bike infrastructure can be cheap and lightening fast. But politicians have to be willing to take some heat from their constituents because these projects often involve trade offs that make driving, which most people do a slightly less convenient. So I think so far all of the evidence that I've seen in San Diego points to the slow pace and the high cost of bike infrastructure in the city as a very self inflicted wound. I've been speaking with Kpbs Metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew, thank you so much. Thank you, jade.

Speaker 3: 06:24 [inaudible].

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.