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Are Motorized Scooters a Long Term Solution for Los Angeles?

For anyone out of the loop, Bird is a public e-scooter renting company. Users unlock e-scooters or ‘Birds’ around their neighborhood using a smartphone app and rent the motorized scooter for a period of time. When users are finished, they simply leave the bird and another user can take control. 

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation issued a cease and desist letter, ordering Bird to, “remove any and all vehicles that you have in the city of Los Angeles immediately,” June 8, 2018. While this may come as to a surprise to some, Bird has handled these types of bans before in other cities. San Francisco issued a permit system under which Bird and other e-scooter companies must comply. Santa Monica recently approved a 16-month pilot program for public e-scooter use. The purpose of the pilot program is to introduce e-scooters to the public and test the effectiveness of certain regulations. Santa Monica’s regulations include a $20,000 permit fee as well as a per vehicle fee of $130.

Birds in Los Angeles?

Therefore, the question remains, can Bird work for the greater Los Angeles area? Furthermore, can e-scooters be a long-term solution for an ever-growing traffic problem. If the city of Los Angeles insists on making the cease and desist permanent, then their stance is straightforward. However, if the Los Angeles city government uses this time to deliberate and determine a course of action to regulate e-scooter companies, we may see less congested roadways moving forward. There are a couple regulations that likely need to go in place before we see another Bird or Lime fleet in the City of Los Angeles.

Permitted For Use

A stronger permit system similar to that of San Francisco will need to be implemented. This could include a limit on the number of e-scooters in use, heat maps of e-scooter use and a privacy policy that protects individual users’ data, a policy to keep sidewalks clear of e-scooters both parked and in-use, and a low-income plan to ensure the program is accessible across income tiers. Additionally, the permit system could restrict where e-scooters are allowed to use their motors. For example, not allowing an e-scooter to be used in an outdoor mall or shopping center could be beneficial. Allowing Schools or companies to request motor free area through a city government portal could be a solution to ending e-scooter traffic through private or safe areas. This is only the beginning of a potentially long battle between ride-share programs and the Los Angeles City Government. With automated cars entering the public domain sooner rather than later, policies must be developed and tested to usher in the next generation of public and private transpotation.