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New scooter rules in San Diego cut rides sharply

From three million to 600,000 per year

No other cities ask all operators to "throttle down to three miles per hour on every sidewalk."
No other cities ask all operators to "throttle down to three miles per hour on every sidewalk."

The city's efforts to regulate scooters and e-bikes have caused the number of rides to plunge from over three million when the rules were approved last year to 595,000.

In the first year after the city amended the code to add stricter rules addressing sidewalk riding and corral staging, for example, scooter deployment has tanked.

The shared mobility program launched in 2017 with big plans for multiple operators and up to 8,000 devices. Today there's only one – Bird – which deploys around 1,400 devices per day.

Changes to the ordinance in August 2022 came in the wake of countless complaints about the takeover of sidewalks by Bird, Spin, Lime, and Link devices.

"We were being threatened with scooters running us down," said Janet Rogers, a member of the group Safe Walkways, which formed to fight the scooters.

Speaking to the active transportation committee last week during an update on the program, Rogers urged the city to do even more: oust the last remaining scooter operator.

Drop in scooters in San Diego in two years


"Lime and Link were asked to leave because they could not do the sidewalk technology," she said. But with Bird, "we're still seeing a significant number of ADA violations."

City staff said complaints to the Get it Done app have been reduced 86 percent by the new regulations, everything from sidewalk parking and blockage to roadway violations.

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Alyssa Edelen, Lime's general manager, said the drop in complaints reflects the fact that there are too few devices to serve the city. "It is a market we would consider a bottom market" due to the low number of devices, trips, and operators, she said.

"What we consider the degradation of the city and the market is the insistence on requiring all vehicles to be permitted down to three miles per hour across all sidewalks, every street and the entire permitting area."

No other cities ask all operators to "throttle down to three miles per hour on every sidewalk because it's not feasible, not scalable, and it can't be done."

A Mission Hills local said he uninstalled the apps after the regulations kicked in "because there weren't any available devices near me."

Having now reinstalled them, he looked into a two mile trip to Balboa Park that would take about 20 minutes and cost $10 – the same as taking Uber while a ride from Lyfft would be only $6.11. The city "has made it completely undesirable to use these scooters."

While the city says the rule changes and shift to a contract model are the main reasons for the drop in deployment, theft and vandalism, which continued through spring 2023, led to significant loss for many operators.

A spokesperson for Bird, which has been operating in the city since 2018, said it's been a challenging year for micomobility in San Diego due to "the immense binational theft issue" and increased regulation that has "hindered ridership."

City officials said they plan to make the devices more available with new corrals, transit connections, and putting in minority areas. There are 437 corrals in communities of concern where 15 percent of devices are deployed, as required in the contracts, and there will be more by the end of the year.

The benefits of the shared mobility program for the solutions the committee is working on, officials said, are "huge." The fuel-free vehicles continue to be used for short trips that take about 13 minutes, providing that first or last mile.

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No other cities ask all operators to "throttle down to three miles per hour on every sidewalk."
No other cities ask all operators to "throttle down to three miles per hour on every sidewalk."

The city's efforts to regulate scooters and e-bikes have caused the number of rides to plunge from over three million when the rules were approved last year to 595,000.

In the first year after the city amended the code to add stricter rules addressing sidewalk riding and corral staging, for example, scooter deployment has tanked.

The shared mobility program launched in 2017 with big plans for multiple operators and up to 8,000 devices. Today there's only one – Bird – which deploys around 1,400 devices per day.

Changes to the ordinance in August 2022 came in the wake of countless complaints about the takeover of sidewalks by Bird, Spin, Lime, and Link devices.

"We were being threatened with scooters running us down," said Janet Rogers, a member of the group Safe Walkways, which formed to fight the scooters.

Speaking to the active transportation committee last week during an update on the program, Rogers urged the city to do even more: oust the last remaining scooter operator.

Drop in scooters in San Diego in two years


"Lime and Link were asked to leave because they could not do the sidewalk technology," she said. But with Bird, "we're still seeing a significant number of ADA violations."

City staff said complaints to the Get it Done app have been reduced 86 percent by the new regulations, everything from sidewalk parking and blockage to roadway violations.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Alyssa Edelen, Lime's general manager, said the drop in complaints reflects the fact that there are too few devices to serve the city. "It is a market we would consider a bottom market" due to the low number of devices, trips, and operators, she said.

"What we consider the degradation of the city and the market is the insistence on requiring all vehicles to be permitted down to three miles per hour across all sidewalks, every street and the entire permitting area."

No other cities ask all operators to "throttle down to three miles per hour on every sidewalk because it's not feasible, not scalable, and it can't be done."

A Mission Hills local said he uninstalled the apps after the regulations kicked in "because there weren't any available devices near me."

Having now reinstalled them, he looked into a two mile trip to Balboa Park that would take about 20 minutes and cost $10 – the same as taking Uber while a ride from Lyfft would be only $6.11. The city "has made it completely undesirable to use these scooters."

While the city says the rule changes and shift to a contract model are the main reasons for the drop in deployment, theft and vandalism, which continued through spring 2023, led to significant loss for many operators.

A spokesperson for Bird, which has been operating in the city since 2018, said it's been a challenging year for micomobility in San Diego due to "the immense binational theft issue" and increased regulation that has "hindered ridership."

City officials said they plan to make the devices more available with new corrals, transit connections, and putting in minority areas. There are 437 corrals in communities of concern where 15 percent of devices are deployed, as required in the contracts, and there will be more by the end of the year.

The benefits of the shared mobility program for the solutions the committee is working on, officials said, are "huge." The fuel-free vehicles continue to be used for short trips that take about 13 minutes, providing that first or last mile.

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