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LETTERS -- City Puts E-Scooter Company Profits Ahead of Public Safety

December 2, 2019

Dear Editor,

In its infinite wisdom, the Santa Monica City Council extended its 16-month pilot “mobility” study originally due to expire in December ("Santa Monica Banks on Future of Micro Mobility," November 13, 2019).

Councilmember Terry O’Day frets that the $1 million fees and fines levied against Bird are too onerous for a company valued at $2 billion.

Would that he showed such concern for the safety of residents facing the hazards of sharing our sidewalks with entitled scooter riders.

Mayor Gleam Davis believes more bike paths (to be built at taxpayer expense) are the answer to getting e-scooter riders off public sidewalks.

Obviously, her reasoning doesn’t work on Ocean Avenue which has bike paths on either side of the street and still many e-scooter riders defy state law and choose to ride on the sidewalk.

She boasts that these alternate mobility devices replaced “millions” of car rides when the staff report summary claims 1.2 million replacements, based on figures with no reference to any methodology back-up.

Davis also wants parity with cars. In responding to a call for a complaint hotline so pedestrians can report wrongdoing by e-scooter riders, she said she’d like to see the same for motorists.

Really? We already have that “hotline” to the Police Department.

The bias of city staff was on full display. In its November 12th presentation to Council, it showed two slides that sought to curry support for the private, profit-making companies.

One rewrote the sign over the pier to read: “Welcome to Santa Monica, home of e-scooters.”

The other slide showed the evolution of humans from ape to man riding a scooter. There was no slide showing an elderly woman sprawled on the sidewalk, tripped up by an abandoned e-scooter.

Why, exactly, does the City need more time to study the companies that began doing business here two years ago?

Only 35 percent of users are residents. So we have been guinea pigs to benefit out-of-towners for far too long.

Thoughtful Santa Monicans, have already suggested many ways to handle this intrusion to the civic scene:

  • Require the companies to mark their scooters with large, identifying numbers so that individual users can be reported for wrongdoing.

  • Have the Police, Code Enforcement and other City workers give tickets to riders breaking State and local safety laws—riding on sidewalks, riding double, allowing children to ride, etc.

  • Require the companies to track abusers and drop serious offenders from service.

  • Require the companies to "geo-fence" areas, like parks, beach path, Third Street Promenade, where riding is supposedly forbidden.

  • Enforce the provision that e-scooters must be left in designated areas, not dropped any which way.

  • Set up a 24/7 hotline, funded by the companies, to take complaints from residents and riders.

The City can keep on “studying,” but it needs to put these safeguards in action immediately.

Harriet P. Epstein
Santa Monica

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