The City has begun accepting applications from electric bike and scooter companies for a city-wide pilot program that will launch Sept. 17. The program will attempt to cap the total number of devices in city limits at 3,500, with up to 1,000 e-bikes and up to 2,000 e-scooters at the launch, according to administrative guidelines posted online.

Companies will be allowed to apply to increase their fleet if they are averaging four rides a day per scooter or three rides a day per e-bike.

“For better and for worse, Santa Monica is the epicenter of this mobility revolution and so we’ve been scrambling to keep up since this issue cuts across multiple departments,” said City Manager Rick Cole in a widely circulated newsletter to city staff Thursday.

The program will regulate the number of shared devices parked on sidewalks each morning. It will ban parking the scooters on Ocean Front Walk, the beach and nearby parking lots, the Third Street Promenade, The Pier, public parks and transit stops “unless at a bike rack or designated location.”

It’s been about ten months since Bird dropped its first wave of scooters on sidewalks around town in September, sending city officials scrambling to apply outdated rules to a new industry with no brick-and-mortar rental location or designated parking areas. Users simply download an app and hop on a scooter, leaving it at their destination for the next user to pick up and ride.

In June, Bay Area-based Lime added more scooters to the mix, advertising faster speeds to compete with the already ubiquitous Birds. Lime recently promised Cole it would decrease speeds to 15 miles per hour and implement new software to require drivers licenses from new users.

“We thought we had a reasonable handle on the issue…but what’s happened in the past few weeks is an explosion in usage at the very time when Santa Monica is inundated with peak summer season visitors from around the region and around the globe,” Cole said.

Applications to operate under the pilot are due July 27 and winning bids will be announced Aug. 30. The pilot also sets fees, including a $20,000 annual operator fee plus $130 per device.

“The City is pursuing the creation of a Use of Public Property fee to compensate for use of the public right of way, like the fees collected for outdoor dining. Operators will be subject to payment of the fee once it is in effect,” the guidelines said.

Applicants will also have to ensure an “equitable distribution” of devices, limiting the number in the downtown area to one-third of the total fleet. The City is requesting geofencing to designate parking areas for scooters and bikes.

In addition, the city is seeking companies willing to publish their data for public viewing, querying and mapping.


Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press