LA to send cease and desist letters to scooter companies ‘as soon as next week’

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A city official says the transportation department will start issuing cease and desist letters to companies placing dockless scooters in areas where they haven’t been given explicit permission to operate.

“We can do that as soon as next week,” Marcel Porras, chief sustainability officer with the city’s transportation department, told the Los Angeles City Council’s public safety committee on Wednesday.

Porras committed to sending the letters after getting grilled by committee chair Mitchell Englander about why the department has only issued a single cease and desist letter to Bird—in spite of a motion calling for a citywide moratorium on the vehicles that the council approved earlier this year.

“We’ve asked the department to do this for months,” Englander said Wednesday. “I don’t know why we have to go back and forth.”

That motion effectively bans dockless bikes and scooters—which have proliferated on city streets and sidewalks in the past year—in areas that haven’t been approved for pilot programs testing the technology.

But enforcement of those rules has been almost nonexistent. As theLos Angeles Times has reported, there’s even been confusion about whether the moratorium applied to scooters—or just dockless bikes.

In June, the transportation department sent a cease and desist letter to Bird after the electric scooter company began putting scooters in Downtown LA. Bird quickly removed the vehicles, but its scooters can still be found in neighborhoods throughout the city, including Venice, Fairfax, and Hollywood.

Porras told the committee that enforcing the policy has been difficult, because transportation staffers cannot impound vehicles; that task is the responsibility of the city’s sanitation department. He asked for further guidance from the City Council on how to enforce the city’s dockless rules as officials consider new regulations governing the vehicles.

It seems unlikely that the bikes and scooters will disappear from city streets and sidewalks entirely. The committee also unanimously rejected a stricter ban on electric scooters Wednesday.

Proposed last month by Councilmember Paul Koretz, the ban would have fined companies for leaving scooters on city sidewalks and empowered police to ticket riders violating state safety rules.

“I want to be known as a city that invites and embraces new technology, not bans it,” said Councilmember Joe Buscaino.

At the same time, the City Council is also considering regulations on dockless bikes and scooters. The rules, as drafted, would impose safety requirements on the vehicles, including speed limits and tail light requirements. The rules could be approved before the end of the month, but it would take time for them to go into effect.

In the meantime, under conditions approved earlier this month by the council’s transportation committee, scooter companies would have to apply for temporary permits from the transportation department.

Committee members say the regulations would address many of the concerns that residents have raised about the safety of scooters and the tendency of riders to leave them in places where pedestrians can easily trip over the vehicles.

Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell even offered to take on enforcement responsibilities himself.

“If I see one blocking the sidewalk or street, it’s going to end up in the trunk of my car,” he said.

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