A Los Angeles City Council committee refined some proposed regulations for dockless electric scooters Wednesday, recommending that their top speed be capped at 12 mph while also creating a conditional use permit system for them and other emerging mobility devices.
The Transportation Committee had previously approved a set of regulations for the electric scooter industry in June, but brought them back to make further revisions. Councilman Mike Bonin, who chairs the committee, said he wanted to make changes after he heard some companies were considering raising the speed level of their scooters to be more competitive.
Bird, which is operating scooters in several Westside communities, currently offers devices with a top speed of 15 mph, Bonin said. Another company active in the city, Lime, says on its website that its scooters have a top speed of 14.8 mph.
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Bonin also continued to express support for the scooters despite his fellow committee member, Councilman Paul Koretz, pulling his support for them last week and calling for a temporary ban on them in the city until full regulations are in place.
"With any form of transportation, whether it's bicycles or cars, or scooters, people need to obey the laws. And this is a little more confusing at first because it's a relatively new mode of transportation for folks, so it's going to take both smart regulation and enforcement,'' Bonin told City News Service.
The scooters work through a phone app which allows people to find and unlock the devices and drop them off anywhere they are allowed, with no docking station or kiosk required.
The amendments approved Wednesday would allow for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to approve or revoke conditional use permits for companies already operating in the city, but would not allow them to expand to new areas until the final regulations are approved the council.
In June, the Transportation Committee approved regulations that would allow for controlled growth of the devices, with a cap of 3,000 devices per provider. Operators will also have the opportunity to add up to 2,500 more devices if they are located in disadvantaged communities, and they can add an additional 5,000 in disadvantaged communities in the San Fernando Valley.
If companies can demonstrate at least three rides per day per device and adhere to all rules and regulations, the general manager of LADOT each quarter can allow for providers to add 5,000 more devices.
Koretz introduced a motion last week to ban the operation of electric scooters until the city drafts full regulations on their use, and Beverly Hills recently invoked a six-month ban.
Koretz repeated his concerns about safety and said he has seen about 1,000 scooters on the streets in his district, but few people operating them legally while riding on sidewalks, without helmets or with children driving them. However, Koretz did not object to the amended regulations that Bonin proposed.
Koretz said he had recently been confronted by a 12-year-old who said he was going to run for City Council when he turned 18 so he could overturn Koretz's proposed ban on scooters. Both Bird and Lime require drivers to be at least 18 and have a valid driver's license.
"Well the fact that he's mad because he's a regular user of these at 12 sort of makes my point," Koretz said.
Bonin told City News Service he believes the public will become more aware of the rules and laws around scooters. He said the police department conducted an awareness campaign in Venice over the weekend where no citations were issued but several hundred people were told to get off a scooter if they were driving it illegally and issued a warning.
The amended regulations creating the conditional use permit would also apply to future -- and unforeseen -- tech/mobility devices, Bonin said.
"The anticipation is that there will be other forms of stuff coming down the pipeline," Bonin said. "I want to make sure we don't get caught in a situation where we're treating each thing as an individual phenomenon.
"I want these rules to capture everything and then we can refine from there, but I want to make sure there's a governing structure as we start with whatever the new thing is."