The City Council unanimously voted at its Tuesday, Feb. 19, meeting to direct staff to create a long-term ordinance that could more than triple the number of sharing electric scooters in the city.
The new ordinance — which has not yet been written and will likely not go into effect for at least two more months — would ultimately allow up to 6,000 scooters, although it would impose a cap of 4,000 until the ordinance has been in effect for six months.
Long Beach implemented a pilot program in July to temporarily authorize some sharing electric scooter companies to operate. The city has used that program to gather data on scooter usage and complaints, which it used to craft the recommendation for Tuesday’s vote.
The pilot program allowed up to 1,800 sharing electric scooters to be distributed in Long Beach, but Public Works Director Craig Beck said during Tuesday’s meeting that the sharing electric scooter companies never actually met that cap. Currently, he said, there are about 980 sharing electric scooters operating in the city.
Although the vote was unanimous, some council members expressed concerns that any ordinance would have to include measures to ensure that riders and sharing electric scooter companies are more compliant with the program’s rules than they have been throughout the pilot period.
“The problem with sharing electric scooters that I see is they leave a long-standing reminder of what it is that people don’t like about them,” Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price said. “When they’re abandoned … I think it almost starts to take the shape of debris, and people start to view it as debris — that there’s this thought that the city is not taking care of infrastructure. The city’s not picking up after these companies.”
Beck assured Price and other council members that Long Beach’s sharing electric scooter program would look very different under an ordinance than it has under the pilot program. One of the major differences is that it would charge companies fees for permits, which the city would use to pay for staff that would enforce the ordinance.
“If you have people riding on the sidewalks,” which is against the program’s rules, Beck said, “we want to make sure that’s being enforced… We’re really focusing on a program that dissuades that, or charges people or fines people for that kind of behavior.”
Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, who labeled herself as “pro-scooter,” said the way the pilot program operated could be described as “scooter-light.”
“Going on board with a full program means that we’re going to have some more technology at our fingertips” to enforce the rules, she said.
Some of the potential new uses of technology that were discussed were requiring sharing electric scooter companies to fine riders in their app for breaking rules, or using geo-fencing to mark spaces like parks and schools as off-limits.
Ultimately, the council members all agreed that sharing electric scooters will be an important piece of the city’s attempts to promote more green transit options. The important thing, many of them said, will be to have regular check-ins on the program to make sure it’s working for everyone.
“I think we need to maintain our flexibility as policy-makers and as a council,” Eighth District Councilman Al Austin said, “because this is an evolving business model. Things have improved, and technology has changed just during the pilot period that we have experienced here in our city. We have to recognize that these sharing electric scooters are serving mobility needs for our public.”
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