A company that collects and inspects e-scooters overnight might be the answer to the safety issues that have followed them since they first hit the streets in fall 2017.

Santa Monica is the birthplace of both e-scooters and Sweep, a company that evolved from a group of friends charging scooters on the pier into a logistics machine that operates in cities across the United States and is planning a global expansion. The company dispatches teams at night to pick up scooters and trained mechanics run each one through a safety check, making repairs as needed.

CEO Richard Branning said delivering a level of accountability beyond what scooter companies provide benefits both riders and the vendors themselves. The team prevents malfunctions that could harm riders and ensures that the devices don’t go missing.

Any individual can charge or fix scooters. For example, Bird Mechanics only have to watch some instructional videos before receiving tools from the company. Branning said Sweep is a safer alternative to independent contractors.

“If you’re going to hop on a scooter, are you going to hop on one that’s been outsourced to the public where anyone can become a mechanic, or are you going to ride on one that’s been put through a quality control checklist by our warehouse mechanics?” he said.

Branning, who graduated from Pepperdine University in 2012, was working at a startup near the Third Street Promenade when the first Bird scooters arrived in Santa Monica. He was one of the first riders, but he was skeptical that the companies could deliver a safe product using independent chargers or mechanics.

“When you have a product transporting thousands of people around, there needs to be responsibility and accountability with that service,” he said.

Sweep provides services to cities struggling with the growing pains of the scooter industry as well, Branning said, including its 311 Scooter Relocation Service that police officers and local officials can use.

“When someone sees a scooter in the middle of the street, the process is really fragmented. The person calls the city, the city calls the company and the company calls the contractor,” he said. “We drive Sweep vans around the city that can respond to scooters in inappropriate places.”

The young company is expanding to 75 cities this year and debuting new services, Branning said.

“We want to deliver scooters from our vans on demand,” he said. “People can order a scooter rather than an Uber.”



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1 Comment

  1. Look, this is all about money. Scooter companies, not cities, should have to pay for services like this Sweep thing. Yes, “there needs to be responsibility and accountability.”

    Pay-to-drive motorized scooters on L.A.’s Westside stoke class resentment, because their riders are visibly financially secure and virtually never stopped for flagrant traffic violations such as riding on the sidewalk or having earbuds in. Rental scooters are not human-powered transportation. They have motors for acceleration, and their operators do not deserve the same slack at stop signs and red lights that we give bicyclists.

    Law enforcement is stretched thin and could use some resources to address the problem. For every so many pay scooters left in public (200 or so?), the scooter companies should be required to fund the hiring of one full-time scooter enforcement police officer.

    The companies should maybe also have to pay fees like billboard companies pay for leaving their self-advertising devices in people’s faces in public places.

    These rental scooters are heavy motorized vehicles. It’s not clear why we should let them onto sidewalks at all. Maybe scooter companies should pay for parking when their commercial vehicles are parked on public property.

    For public health, the helmet law should be reinstated for all motorized scooter riders. A recent UCLA study found lots of head injuries. The helmet law decision is now up to cities, and Santa Monica should require that every rider wear a helmet.

    There are no good data on the benefits side, but it sure looks like these motorized things are replacing a lot of walking and bicycling and not tons of vehicle miles traveled. We shouldn’t expose riders and others to health and cost risks to serve the business models of disruptive corporate titans who are trying to pass themselves off as green heroes.

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