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LB launches e-scooter pilot program

Officials are observing other cities’ challenges with the scooters

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Courtesy 8th District LB Council office
Long Beach is currently implementing a pilot program for allowing e-scooter vendors to operate in the city.

Long Beach may soon be allowing electronic-scooter (e-scooter) rentals, such as those in Venice Beach and Santa Monica, but city officials say they first need to study the results of a pilot program initiated this month.

Like the City’s bike-share service, the e-scooter rental program would allow participating vendors to deploy e-scooters for program members to use for a fee. However, unlike the bicycle program, the e-scooters are dockless and would use an app-based system whereby riders would be able to find a nearby e-scooter along rights-of-way, rent it for a period of time and then park it at their destination. Officials say a fee structure will be in place to encourage riders to return the scooters to station locations.

In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Eric Widstrand, city traffic engineer, explained that the rights-of-way are basically the same as where bicycles are allowed to ride. In other words, riders are not allowed to use them on sidewalks. Upon the completion of the ride, the user must lift the scooter and place it into a designated “drop zone.”

“E-scooters should be ridden in the street, in bike lanes,” Widstrand said. “They should not be ridden on sidewalks. The max operating speed for the e-scooters is going to be 15 miles an hour, so that is a more appropriate speed for that vehicle to be in the bike lane, where bikes are traveling in that speed range as well. We don’t think it’s appropriate to have e-scooters ridden on the sidewalk where they’re with people who are walking [at] a much slower speed, not expecting e-scooters to be zipping by them.”

A June 19, 2018 memorandum on the pilot program, from Public Works Director Craig Beck to City Manager Patrick West, indicates that other cities that are allowing for e-scooter programs, such as San Francisco and Santa Monica, are experiencing some challenges, such as oversaturation, indiscriminate placement, dangerous riding and blocking of ADA-accessible path-of-travel.

“What we’ve observed in other cities is that some vendors have come into cities and just dropped down several hundred or several thousand scooters without working with the city,” Widstrand said. “So, I think Long Beach is taking a proactive approach, and we’ve talked to the cities of Santa Monica and San Francisco to see what kind of lessons they’ve learned from their programs, and we’re trying to create a robust set of guidelines for the scooter operators so we can have a mutually beneficial relationship.”

According to Beck’s memo, the pilot program requires that: vendors have a business license; vendors limit the speed to 15 miles per hour; vendors provide helmets; riders be at least 18; vendors apply for a right-of-way use permit; and vendors develop a fee structure that encourages users to return scooters to station locations.

Widstrand said the City conducted a kick-off meeting for e-scooter vendors on July 2 and is now waiting for them to indicate how many scooters they plan to offer and where their drop zones will be located.

“The pilot program will end on Oct. 30,” he said. “We’ll then require the vendors to pick up all their scooters. We’ll evaluate the pilot and then decide how best to move forward with a permanent program over the months following the completion of the pilot.”

Part of that evaluation will involve city staff monitoring vendor compliance, as well as tracking complaints and responsiveness to address concerns.

“We want them in our city,” Widstrand said. “Scooters provide another mobility option for people. It gives people another chance– much like Bikeshare, bicycling and walking– to get around town without driving. But we want them to do it in a safe manner, because it is another mode of travel on the street, and they’re kind of the ‘new kid on the block,’ so we want to make sure that we’re giving them good guidance in how they can get around and how they can operate.”

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Serving Bixby Knolls, California Heights, Los Cerritos, Wrigley and Signal Hill
LB launches e-scooter pilot program