In a preemptive move, the City of Pismo Beach voted 5-0 to enact an urgency moratorium on any scooter-sharing companies from operating within city limits.
Gaining in popularity, scooter-sharing programs have been popping up in cities across the country. Companies such as Bird and Line, allow people to rent electric motorized scooters through an app. People select the scooter, activate it for a minimal charge, use it and then deactivate it. However, there are no designated stations for the two-wheeled rollers, and people can leave them anywhere which can host a whole slew of problems. Companies recommend using bike racks. However the businesses have no way of guaranteeing customers will comply. These businesses also pay or issue credits to people known as “chargers” to pick up the scooter and replenish their batteries overnight and then release them back onto the streets.
In his report to the council, City Attorney David Fleishman called for the urgency ordinance to prevent these companies from doing business in Pismo for the time being. He stated that in some cases these companies perform “rouge launches” where they descend on a city and drop off loads of scooters overnight. He said that they have been left on people’s property and in some instances blocking city walkways.
“The modus operandi of some of the large operators,” said Fleishman, “is to bring them in in large quantities and just start leaving them on street corners.”
When asked by Councilwoman Shelia Blake if the city had the authority to pick up the left scooters and take them to the dump, Fleishman advised against it. However, Pismo Police Chief Jake Miller said that if any scooters obstructed city ways, then they could be impounded for 60 days.
KCBX reported that Bird had planned on dropping scooters in San Luis Obispo back in September, but city officials acted quickly to stop the company. Interim Deputy City Manager Greg Hermann told the news organization San Luis Obispo “may be a good fit for scooter sharing, but just like any business, it will need proper permits to ensure the safety of riders and the community.” SLO continues to work with Bird the possible development of a business that suits SLO needs.
Acknowledging the benefits of the program with alternative transportation and accessibility, the council unanimously deemed it prudent to prevent any rouge launches occurring in Pismo but did not wholly reject the idea of allowing such companies to operate in the future.
Before the vote, City Manager Jim Lewis advised the council to approve the ordinance and observe how other cities address potential issues raised by similar scooter sharing programs.
“I think that these have been such a turmoil and issue in the larger cities,” said Lewis, “I think it is better for us to watch the public policy unfolds and catch up to this, as best practices unfold, and that’s why we’re recommending the moratorium tonight.”
No one stepped forth to speak on the proposed ordinance during the public comment section.
Bird did not respond to questions prior to press time.
By Mark A. Diaz