Most scooter riders have learned a few rules of the road since the devices landed in Santa Monica nearly two years ago.
The City of Santa Monica and the four companies it has authorized to operate here – Bird, Lime, Lyft and Jump, which is owned by Uber – have communicated to riders that they must ride in a bike lane, not the sidewalk or heavily trafficked downtown areas like the Third Street Promenade and the Santa Monica Beach Bike Path. Most know only one person is allowed on a scooter at the time and riders must be at least 16 years old with a valid driver’s license, according to a recent survey of riders that the City conducted.
The City’s Shared Mobility Pilot Program was developed in accordance with the California Vehicle Code (CVC), said City spokesperson Constance Farrell.
“The City has educated riders about the rules of the road and recently made new investments in signage to remind users,” Farrell said. “To give a recent example, crosswalks throughout the City are now emblazoned with “dismount zone” medallions to remind riders to walk devices safely at intersections.”
Some of the rules of the road are not as well publicized, however.
For example, the CVC prohibits riding scooters on streets with a speed limit higher than 25 miles per hour, unless the street has a bike lane or bikeway. That means it’s illegal to ride a scooter on Wilshire, Pico, Santa Monica and Lincoln Boulevards, but there are no signs on those roads indicating the law.
“The reason for the law is safety – it’s unsafe for riders to ride so close to vehicles traveling at higher speeds, unless the riders have the protection of a bike lane,” said Catherine Lerer, a Santa Monica-based attorney representing hundreds of clients who have been injured while riding scooters.
The code also prohibits riders from turning left at intersections. Lerer said she has clients who were hit by cars while making a left.
“When preparing for a left turn, the operator shall stop and dismount as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or right edge of the roadway and complete the turn by crossing the roadway on foot,” the code states.
When turning, riders are required to signal. Lerer said that could mean extending one’s arm or turning on a light, like a car. The problem is, she said, that it can be dangerous to ride a scooter one-handed and most aren’t equipped with turning signals.
“Cities should require scooters to have attachable electric turn signals,” she said. “If the companies themselves were really concerned about the safety of riders, they would put turn signals on the scooters.”
Lerer said she thinks cities and companies should do more to inform riders about the rules of the road that apply to them – for their own safety.
“There needs to be a better in-app tutorial with a quiz that a rider has to take to prove they know the rules of the road before they get on scooter,” she said. “We take a test before we get a driver’s license. Why shouldn’t scooter riders take an in-app quiz?”