Since scooters arrived in Santa Monica more than a year ago, 105 scooter and bike parking zones have been stenciled on city streets and sidewalks and police have issued 1,542 citations to riders.

The City of Santa Monica released an update on the Shared Mobility Pilot Program Monday, six months after it launched last fall. The program, which will last another 10 months, authorizes Bird, Lime, Lyft and Jump, which is owned by Uber, to operate within city limits with a combined 2,000 scooters and 1,000 bikes. The City has cited or impounded more than 100 unauthorized devices from other companies since last fall.

The City initiated the program following the rapid proliferation of the devices in late 2017, when Bird first launched in Santa Monica. The initial phase of the program deployed public education and signage around scooter safety, including bus advertising and painted stencils marking out no-ride zones.

The City is doubling down on those strategies ahead of the busy summer tourist season, with plans to install more signage and partner with the four companies to educate riders on the rules of the road. It has already started installing 100 permanent signs indicating dismount zones downtown and in other areas and 35 signs along the beach bike path and in Palisades Park identifying the areas as off-limits.

While scooters and electric bikes are not allowed on the beach bike path, the park and the Promenade, the City currently requires the four last mile companies to slow down devices in the prohibited areas instead of halting them.

Deputy City Manager Anuj Gupta told The Daily Press in February that the City decided to slow the devices because if they powered down completely, riders would abandon them en masse and create pileups. Reducing their speed would give riders a chance to move out of prohibited areas, he said.

That will change this summer, said acting chief mobility officer Francie Stefan. The City will require the four companies to slow devices on the beach bike path and the Promenade to zero or one mile per hour. Companies are required to remove clusters of scooters that build up, Stefan said.

The City is also trying to control where riders park their scooters and bikes. Since last fall, 35 in-street and 70 off-street parking zones for scooters and bikes have been installed throughout Santa Monica, clustering in commercial areas like Main Street and Montana Avenue.

Stefan said the companies are currently developing incentives for riders to use the parking zones. If the incentives don’t work, the City will ask them to develop disincentives, she said, citing Breeze Bike Share’s $1 charge for leaving a bike outside its station as an example.

“They can try out some incentives and we’ll see how they perform,” Stefan said.

Other changes to the pilot program include new safety checks and additional enforcement by the  Santa Monica Police Department, the details of which are still being ironed out, said Lieutenant Saul Rodriguez.

The pilot program has required operators to comply with safety requirements set by the City and the state since it launched, but since early this year, code enforcement officers have been conducting regular spot checks of the devices’ brakes, handlebars and lights, Stefan said.

Recent testing has raised concerns about the efficacy of some scooter brakes.

Earlier this year, a local forensic engineer tested a scooter model that uses electric brakes activated with the rider’s thumb and found it could not come to a complete stop on a sloping road. The test was conducted as research for a lawsuit against Bird on behalf of riders who were injured after jumping off of scooters that were unable to stop on hills. The engineer told The Daily Press in February that scooters equipped with electric brakes as opposed to manual brakes were “effectively useless” on hills and “a hidden hazard.”

Stefan said the City requires scooters to comply with state rules on brakes and its spot checks evaluate the functionality of the brakes on each device.

“If we were to test a vehicle that is unable to come to a stop, we would notify the company that it needs to be taken out of service,” she said.

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  1. I called SMPD last month to ask how they dispose of their impounded scooters. The usual way is to sell them at a yearly auction in the SMPD parking lot. After a bit of a run around where they directed me to two online auction sites they use for all other impounded and confiscated items I was told they now just give them back to the scooter companies. I was surprised. I had thought the scooter folks did not make any effort to get their older scooters back and let them be resold. I asked why nobody knew about this change? Silence.

    Take it for what it’s worth.

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