Electric bicycles, skateboards, hoverboards or any other device with wheels and a motor could be banned from the beach path this week if Council approves revisions to local laws prompted by the emergence of electric scooters.
Under the proposal the beach path, along with sidewalks and local parks, would be reserved exclusively for pedestrians or wheeled devices without a motor such as regular pedal bikes. While staff said the existing law can be interpreted to already ban electric devices, more clarification will make the rules ironclad.
“While the Code is clear about what is allowed on the Beach Bike Path, it was not specific about what is not allowed other than everything not on the allowed list,” said the staff report. “In reviewing the existing Municipal 2 of 6 Code, the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) determined that it lacks a number of “non-auto” transportation device definitions that are included in the California Vehicle Code. Updating the Municipal Code to incorporate express references to these “nonauto” mobility devices as defined by the California Vehicle Code will clarify the law and reduce questions about enforcement and regulation of such devices throughout Santa Monica, particularly on the beach bike path, on the Pier and in City Parks.”
Staff said the revisions follow a period of uncertainty and chaos on the path. According to the staff report, there have been 13 serious injuries involving electric scooters throughout the city. The sudden appearance of the scooters and the associated problems prompted the city to implement a crackdown recently.
“Since the campaign began, SMPD has advised over 4,000 electric scooter riders, collected close to 3,000 electric scooters from the beach bike path, issued approximately 1000 citations and educated the public and visitors by providing postcard pamphlets on the rules and regulations of electric scooter riding,” said the staff report. “SMPD also created and published a public service announcement video on the City’s and Police Department’s social media platforms. The video has been well received, with over 80,000 views. Since the educational campaign was launched, there has been a significant decline in injury incidents on the beach bike path. However, electric scooters on the beach bike path remains a public safety concern.”
In the course of the crack-down, the police department determined the local laws should be updated to better align with the state rules.
“With respect to the Beach Bike Path, existing law (SMMC Sections 3.12.550 and 560) prohibits the operation of electric bicycles, electric personal assistive mobility devices, electrically motorized boards, low-speed vehicles, and motorized scooters on the beach bike path, because they are currently classified as “vehicles” under local law,” said the report. “The proposed ordinance makes the prohibition more explicit.”
As an alternative, staff said Council could consider allowing some kinds of electric bikes on the path. Data included in the report suggest electric bikes are becoming more popular among an aging population but as bikes actually travel faster than scooters, allowing them could create enforcement problems.
Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. on August 28 in City Hall, 1685 Main Street. Open session items will not be heard before 6:30 p.m.