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The rise in electric scooters brought with it a rise in scooter-related injuries and concern that a lack of regulation led to further injuries. In late 2018, the San Diego City Council met to discuss regulations, some of which could take effect in early 2019.
The beginning of 2019 saw an update in electric scooter regulations across the state of California. Governor Jerry Brown signed a mandate that tightens restrictions in some ways and increases restrictions in others. Now, electric scooter operators aged 18 and older are no longer required to wear helmets, though they are still required for those under 18. In addition, e-scooters are not allowed on highways with speeds over 25 mph and roads with speeds over 35 mph unless there is a bike lane.
The new laws do not change existing DUI or driver’s licensing laws, which state users must have a legal driver’s license to operate. Other laws that remained unchanged were those making it illegal to ride with a passenger, as well as those making it illegal to impede sidewalk traffic by laying a scooter down on the sidewalk.
In the fall of 2018, two city council committees, the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods committees, met with community groups as well as the owners of the three major scooter companies. Mayor Faulconer’s plan outlined several ways he plans to involve the scooter companies in ensuring the safety of San Diegans.
Both the scooter companies and Faulconer’s plans involved using GPS information to automatically limit scooter speeds to 8 mph in high-pedestrian areas such as Balboa Park and various boardwalks. The technology is already in use in some areas.
Faulconer also wants the companies to provide the city with the monthly trip and parking data, provide citizens with information regarding the scooters, and limit the city’s liability for electric scooter accidents within the city limits. Another proposal involves the companies moving the scooters to the streets rather than sidewalks for rental and paying a regulatory and registration or permit fee on a yearly basis. The mayor was to finalize and present the proposal to the committee for a vote in January or February 2019.
On January 1st, when the new state regulations rolled out, San Diegans were still approaching Mayor Faulconer with concerns. A group calling itself Safe Walkways formed to address concerns that e-scooters on San Diego sidewalks are injuring pedestrians, citing broken arms, falls, sideswipes, pet injuries and more. The group delivered its own proposal to the mayor in advance of the committee’s reconvening to re-address the e-scooter issue.
In the proposal, Safe Walkways also demands accountability of the scooter companies, requesting they cancel the account of any scooter rider found to have misused the scooters. All scooter riders sign a user agreement at the time of rental stating they will not misuse the scooter, so companies may have rights to terminate further use.
In addition, Safe Walkways demands companies place scooters in the road instead of on the sidewalk, removing the nuisance the scooters cause and moving more traffic to the road. Council members express concern regarding the local infrastructure – there are simply not enough bike lanes or usable space for bike lanes to justify adding a great number of scooters to the roads.
The city has not released any official draft of the new regulations. It is likely that regulations would pass even though a total ban on the scooters failed last year. Council members, companies, and focus groups alike recognize that further regulations are necessary. The number of injuries caused weekly by electric scooter accidents is a concern for all San Diegans, and making the platform safer for scooter riders and pedestrians alike is important.