Santa Monica can now impound ‘hazardous’ Bird scooters

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The popular dockless Bird scooters have just had their wings temporarily clipped. Santa Monica City Council voted Tuesday to create an emergency ordinance that would allow law enforcement officials to impound any Bird scooters or other “shared mobility devices” that pose an immediate hazard or obstruct access to public rights-of-way, says a city press release.

One big advantage of Bird scooters is that they don’t need to be locked in a certain place and can be left anywhere. However, city leaders say that often means they’re left in a way that poses safety hazards for other people.

Now, leaving a scooter lying across a sidewalk, blocking a doorway or driveway, or otherwise causing a tripping danger are potentially impoundable offenses, says city of Santa Monica spokesperson Joseph Vandenorth. Impounded scooters would also incur a $60 fee.

Vandenorth adds that the Santa Monica Police Department and Code Enforcement will be in charge of implementing the new ordinance.

The law is temporary—a stopgap intended to cut down on issues with the motorized scooters while city officials hammer out a more permanent ordinance.

“We want to see innovative companies like Bird successfully operate here,“ mayor Ted Winterer said. “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.”

Bird scooters have dramatically increased in popularity in Santa Monica, but, the ordinance says, many scooter users aren’t following rules (and may not even know the rules) about where and how they should be used.

The Santa Monica Lookout notes that, according to current Santa Monica law, the scooters shouldn’t be used on sidewalks, and only riders with a driver’s license should be operating them. The dockless scooters are also frequently left in public spaces in a way that hampers use of that space.

Unlawful use of the scooters has caused friction between Santa Monica and the company.

In December, the city of Santa Monica filed a criminal case against the company, accusing it of operating without proper permits. In February, Bird agreed to pay more than $300,000 as part of a settlement with the city.

Despite a rough start, there’s incentive for Santa Monica and Bird to play nice. The company claims more than 40,000 active users, and is hoping to expand to 50 markets by the end of 2018. The scooters are already a very common sight in Santa Monica and throughout the Silicon Beach area.

In a statement to Curbed, Bird spokesman Kenneth Baer says the company has made “some good progress” working with the Santa Monica City Council on the issue. “We will be monitoring the situation closely and continue to work with the Council,” Baer says.

Santa Monica’s emergency ordinance is set to expire on January 1, 2019, but the city council is expected to have new options for controlling the scooters on the table “well in advance of that date.”

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