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City Council committee OKs changes to dockless scooter, bike law

Posted at 5:31 PM, Nov 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-20 20:31:30-05

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego City Council's Active Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously voted Wednesday to send a set of proposed additions to the city's regulations on dockless scooters and bicycles to the full council for further consideration.

The committee approved a handful of amendments to the ordinance at the behest of the mayor's office. The suggested changes include a rider curfew from midnight to 5 a.m., usage of one device per government ID, a fine structure and punitive actions for companies that violate city regulations and the elimination of the original ordinance's provision allowing for temporary fleet spikes during large events like Comic-Con.

The amendments would also authorize the city to take actions like reducing a company's fleet size if it poses a public safety hazard or suspending a company outright for multiple violations and requiring the eventual use of geofencing technology to keep riders from traversing the city's sidewalks.

RELATED: San Diego scooter ridership drops off dramatically

The council approved the original regulatory package in April after more than a year of complaints from residents about the need for oversight. The city sought to improve public safety while also keeping dockless mobility companies in the region as an affordable transportation alternative.

The regulatory ordinance included limiting scooter speeds and parking in heavily trafficked areas of the city, operator permits and fees for scooter companies like Bird and Lime, documenting of scooter fleet size and data sharing requirements between scooter companies and the city.

The city also introduced a webpage, scooter-sharing, giving residents the ability to view which companies operate in San Diego and contact information for each of them. The regulations went into effect in July.

RELATED: San Diego City Council head calls for temporary ban on dockless scooters

Representatives of scooter companies Bird, Lyft and Lime noted that ridership has decreased since the regulations went into effect and new issues have arisen, such as third-party scooter impounding businesses that charge companies high prices to retrieve their scooters and bikes.

Bird Senior Manager for Government Partnerships Tim Harder said the company spends $5,000 a week collecting scooters just from city-designated impounds.

"As the second market where Bird launched back in 2018, San Diego has always been important to our company," he said. "We want to stay in San Diego, especially with the new technologies that we are eager to test here that furthers public safety and education."

RELATED: San Diego makes designated dockless scooter and bike spaces

One scooter company, Jump, left the San Diego market earlier this year due to its belief that the city could not effectively enforce its regulations and encourage good behavior by riders.

Representatives from multiple companies, including Jump, and City Councilman Chris Cate suggested the establishment of a dynamic fleet cap that would limit companies that repeatedly violate the city's ordinance.

"In other cities, such as Santa Monica, that employ this kind of performance-based system, operators are focused on going above and beyond to demonstrate to city officials that they have earned the right to deploy more devices," Jump's Senior Operations Manager in San Diego Zach Williams said.

City officials are expected to review the amendment package's legality before it comes before the full council. With only four meetings left before the council takes its winter holiday legislative recess, the council could wait to consider the ordinance until early next year.