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Los Angeles
Friday, Jun 9, 2023

Region Must Find Scooter Solution

Business in Los Angeles depends on a wide range of public utilities, not the least of which are the thoroughfares maintained by local municipalities. While more of an afterthought in our car-centric collective consciousness, the sidewalks are also an important utility and one that often serves as the direct access point for local business.

So the rise of dockless scooters, operated by companies like Santa Monica-based Bird Rides Inc. and Neutron Holdings Inc.’s Lime, and their colonization of local sidewalks could be seen as a public utility landgrab that should worry the business community.

The scooters began making their rather sudden appearance in areas like Santa Monica and Venice in 2018, and have quickly spread to other parts of the L.A. region. The fad has caused consternation in our region and, indeed, in urban areas across the country. Some localities, like Hollywood, have banned the vehicles while others like Santa Monica and Los Angeles are working with scooter operators to get the trend under some semblance of control.

In September, the L.A. City Council passed scooter-related rules, including capping the number of vehicles per company at 3,000; instating a 15 mph speed limit; and requiring scooters be parked upright and near the curb.

Unlike its competitors, Cerritos-based Razor USA worked with city officials before distributing its scooters. According to Business Journal reporting, Razor made its first foray into the shared scooter market in early August as part of a three-month pilot program in Long Beach that allowed the company to operate 150 of its electric scooters in the city. It announced a similar plan for Los Angeles in December.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time stuck in L.A. traffic knows that this city desperately needs transportation alternatives. And much has been made about scooters’ potential as a last-mile transportation option, getting riders from public transit to their final destination without the need for a car.

In addition to the traffic-alleviating potential, the scooters – when they’re not littering public sidewalks and creating obstacle courses for pedestrians – have the potential to bring new customers to businesses in areas that aren’t well-served by public transit. They could encourage Angelenos and visitors alike to explore (and spend money in) neighborhoods off the beaten path.

At the same time, we wonder about their impact on businesses’ foot traffic in areas where pedestrians have to navigate crowded sidewalks made even more congested with abandoned scooters.

An outright ban on dockless electric scooters would be far too drastic a solution to this problem – and the Business Journal applauds Bird and Razor in seeking to address the region’s mobility needs. But local governments must do a better job of enforcing rules and finding a way for scooter riders, pedestrians and drivers to coexist in peace.

And to scooter riders: For heaven’s sake, get off the sidewalks!

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