Almost half of the roughly 2.7 million trips electric scooter and bike riders took in Santa Monica from October 2018 to September 2019 replaced car trips, according to a report the city of Santa Monica released Monday.
The city released the report on scooter and bike usage two months before the pilot program it launched last September to regulate the devices comes to an end. The pilot program permits Bird, Lime, Lyft and Jump, which is owned by Uber, to deploy a certain number of devices in Santa Monica as long as they shared data with the city, maintained safe fleets and responded quickly to community complaints.
“In September 2017, we in Santa Monica witnessed the launch of a new business model that allowed users to rent shared, dockless GPS-enabled e-scooters with their smartphone,” said pilot program coordinator Kyle Kozar. “At the time, no local laws, permits or requirements existed to manage this new transportation option. It was a bumpy road at first, but the Santa Monica City Council saw the technology’s potential to move people in a new way.”
The 60-page report on the pilot program, which the city council will discuss Tuesday, shows that the city was able to regulate and support the new technology by painting bike lanes and device parking zones across the city, preventing riders from using the devices in prohibited areas like the beach and controlling where the companies deployed their devices.
But there is still a lot of room for improvement, according to the report.
“A great deal of progress was made during the pilot program, and many operational areas improved with diligent efforts by city and operator staff,” he said. “Yet, the delivery of public outcomes such as equity, safety, affordability, rider behavior, sustainability and reliability still need substantial improvement.”
Despite the city’s attempts to ensure riders parked devices in ways that didn’t block the sidewalk — including marking 107 parking zones across the city and requiring that the companies incentivize riders to use them — riders continued to park incorrectly.
Just 0.08% of riders used the parking zones, and the city logged more than 800 parked devices that blocked the public right-of-way. The report also said police officers and city officials have noted sidewalk riding as a continuing concern.
“Whether a casual local rider or a tourist, rider behavior needs to improve quickly,” the report said. “Too many scooter riders exhibited risky behavior like sidewalk riding, riding without a helmet, tandem riding and riding in the wrong direction, among others.”
The report noted that the companies took steps to better manage their fleets this past summer, resulting in a 72% decrease in city citations. But the companies still need to do more to mitigate the impact of their devices, the report said.
“Further education and engagement from service providers is necessary to ensure the benefits of the new mobility service are not outweighed by negative impacts on public right-of-way,” the report said.
While the devices may have encroached on the public right-of-way, they have caused relatively few collisions and injuries, according to the report.
The Santa Monica Police Department recorded 122 scooter and bike collisions from January 2017 to September 2019, with 10% resulting in severe injuries and none resulting in death. 47% involved a motor vehicle and 7% involved a pedestrian. 39% of collisions were caused by a fall or involved a fixed object.
The device crash rate was about 1.5 per 100,000 trips, impacting less than 1% of riders each month. Collision frequency peaked before the launch of the pilot program and decreased by 29% this past summer.
The report also cited a recent study of UCLA emergency rooms in Santa Monica and Westwood that logged 249 patients who visited the emergency room for injuries associated with scooter use from September 2017 to August 2018. Their data showed 80% of electric scooter collisions were caused by a fall, 11% involved a fixed object and 9% involved a motor vehicle.
The report also raised concerns about the affordability, safety and environmental impacts of the devices.
All four companies have raised prices since the pilot program launched and surveys showed that two-thirds of riders earn more than $50,000 annually. While the companies maintain programs for low-income riders, just 253 individuals enrolled in them.
“Limited marketing efforts and challenges navigating the equity programs likely contributed to the low participation rate,” the report said.
The companies have introduced safer, sturdier versions of their devices since the pilot program launched, the report said. But the devices are still subject to significant wear-and-tear and vandalism, which makes them riskier to ride and forces the companies to frequently replace parts.
“Concerns are being raised about the emissions and waste impacts of (deployment and) charging operations and the waste stream from device parts and batteries,” the report said.
The city council will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 12 at City Hall, 1685 Main St.