The Summer of eScooters is almost over – will they survive? Probably in some form or fashion is my guess. They’re both very popular, and very unpopular. The vast middle ground here seems to be a slim sliver of society at best.

Last week I was minding my own business in the hot tub at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel when one of the other soakers decided to engage me on my affection for the “toy vehicles” as some refer to them.

His basic argument was, “I like them, and I hate them. People are irresponsible and the company should be held accountable for the bad behavior of its riders. Something has to be done, but I think we need to have alternatives to the incredible traffic snarls we’re having.”

Of course, this engagement with me was contentious. You can’t throw out red meat to a carnivore and expect them to not eat it, and this type of emotional, unformed thinking is the ultimate red meat to a lawyer.

I tried to point out to him that there are limits to what the company should be held responsible for – after all, we don’t get to sue the car manufacturers when a drunk driver kills someone. So why would we hold Bird or Lime responsible when a rider causes an accident by being where they’re not supposed to be?

Similarly, when one person uses a gun to shoot and kill someone else, there’s no vicarious liability to the manufacturers. The fact is that whether it’s a car, a scooter or a gun, they are all just inanimate objects that are then either used properly or improperly and it is the user who is responsible for the damages they cause.

Now the “something” that needs to be done is open for discussion. Lime has geofenced the bike path to prevent people using them there. This is an industry solution to a problem that seems to work well. I was just consulting in Denver on a business retreat I do, and there the eScooters are popular, but also more regulated. There is a large amount of the city and campus that is geofenced, and there are also fewer eScooters. Which resulted in an interesting bonus to the companies. When using an eScooter if you want to keep it, you can continue to pay the per minute charges and then the eScooter is “locked” and no one else can access it. This has the unique benefits of increasing the demand and increasing the per scooter profit because there is now more revenue, but less expensive as the batteries are not being used.

I’ve predicted that the market will respond to the eScooter issue and it seems to have done so in Denver. I believe it will here as well. They’re popular, they’re useful and even with the oppressive regulation of helmets and road access, they will continue to grow as a viable alternative to driving in this small community that is rapidly becoming so congested that the only viable alternative is to shut down some streets to cars, and force a pedestrian lifestyle.

My forecast here is based on a conversation I had with a local architect who keeps up with the planning commission’s work in progress. His warning to me was, “in 5 years you won’t recognize this city” – heck I barely recognize it now! With the soon to be replaced bowling alley to become yet another monolithic residential/retail abortion one can only expect to see this city become the Manhattan of the West Coast.

Landowners are entitled to develop their property – the city though is supposed to regulate how, when, and what sort of limits they place on that development. We have almost no infrastructure increases planned and yet the load on the city continues to grow. I don’t see how the ‘livability factor’ of this city can remain high, if we continue to allow runaway development, do little to assist the homeless and continue to engage in hyper-regulation of valid solutions that will eventually either kill the solutions or make this city intolerable.

Denver is a beautiful city, has a strong tourism trade, and yet remains a livable, workable city, that is embracing change and solutions. We can take a lesson or two from them. Starting with being more hospitable to the eScooters, and less to the rampant development with no concessions for infrastructure development.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra

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