Riders of the now ubiquitous Bird-branded scooters zipping around Santa Monica sidewalks may soon face tickets for violating state traffic laws, according to a press release sent to local media by the Santa Monica Police Department. Traffic cops have already begun an “education campaign” to tell riders they must wear a helmet and stay clear of city sidewalks to avoid receiving a hefty citation.

“To date they have not written any tickets,” Lt. Saul Rodrigeuz told the Daily Press of local traffic officers. “But they are stopping riders and informing them of the laws.”

The cost of the ticket depends on the violation. Riding a motorized vehicle without a helmet is a $190 fine. So is riding on the sidewalk, leaving a scooter in the right-of-way, or not having a valid driver’s license or learner’s permit. Riding a motorized scooter under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a $352 fine, according to Rodriguez.

The California Vehicle Code defines a motorized scooter as a two-wheeled device with handlebars and a floorboard designed to be stood upon when riding and is powered by an electric motor. The use of scooters requires a Class C License and a bicycle helmet.

On Tuesday, a woman riding a Bird was seriously injured and taken to the hospital when she collided with a car on 6th Street and Idaho Avenue. It was the first reported crash involving a Bird scooter and a car, according to police.

The Bird scooters are available to rent on a per minute basis through an app. The electric vehicles can travel up to 15 mph. The City of Santa Monica has filed a complaint against the company citing a lack of proper permits. Bird’s owner says he has the required paperwork to operate.

Bird launched in Santa Monica in September.


Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press