Taming Birds

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Legislation going through City Council seeks to add regulations to services like Bird. Photo by Sam Catanzaro

By Sam Catanzaro

Council considering rules for dockless scooters in the City.

Whether zipping down Abbot Kinney, maneuvering through crowds on The Boardwalk, or cruising on the bike paths, Bird Scooters have become one of the more popular modes of transportations for getting around Venice. New legislation going through Los Angeles City Council, however, looks to regulate dockless ride service companies like Bird Inc.

Birds are motorized scooters that are located via an app, ridden to an exact location, then left there for a new rider to find. Riders pay by the minutes that they use, and have no obligation to “dock” the scooter anywhere.

These transit options are seen by many as a solution to reduce traffic congestion and increase ridership on public transportation by addressing the  “first mile/last mile” issue which is often a problem that cities face when trying to get riders to transport options from workplaces and homes.

“Some residents have expressed support for this new transportation alternative, saying it makes it easier to get to the Expo Line or make quick trips in the neighborhood without getting in their car,” wrote Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin in a recent newsletter.

Despite the utility and popularity of these scooters, many residents and business owners have had issues with riders leaving them on and around their properties.

“Neighbors have expressed concerns about scooters being ridden on sidewalks or blocking access for people in wheelchairs,” Bonin wrote. “These [proposed City] rules will help regulate how and where these new devices can operate and help make sure that these new mobility options are provided safely and in harmony with our neighborhoods.”

A motion going through City Council proposes a moratorium on dockless transit options until a regulatory system can be established.

“These services are currently unpermitted and unregulated by the City of Los Angeles, creating many unintended consequences that require City intervention,” wrote City Councilmember Mitch Englander of the 12th District in the motion. “The safety, mobility and cleanliness of our public right-of-way is essential, and any private company hoping to operate in it needs to ensure these basic principles.”

The City is concerned that Birds are being left out on public property. Photo by Sam Catanzaro

This action by the Los Angeles City Council is similar, but not as far-reaching, to legislation passed last month by Santa Monica City Council, which allows law enforcement to impound any Bird Scooter or other “shared mobility device”  that obstructs access to a public right-of-way or pose an immediate hazard.

“Santa Monica leads on mobility and we want to see innovative companies like Bird successfully operate here,” said Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer. “This ordinance balances public access and safety concerns with the popularity of convenient and sustainable transit choices that align with Santa Monica’s multi-modal culture.”

While Los Angeles law enforcement is not currently impounding scooters, the recent action by Los Angeles City Council signals that regulation of such devices is at the forefront of lawmakers’ minds.

“There has not yet been an adequate public dialogue on these dockless options to warrant their unregulated, unpermitted and unmonitored operation in the City,” Englander stated. “The City seemingly has no way to stop them, yet we are all impacted in one way or another.”