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Council Approves Second Pilot Program for E-Scooters, E-Bikes

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By Jorge Casuso

January 29, 2020 -- Santa Monica will reduce the number of operators but maintain the maximum number of shared e-scooters and e-bikes under a second pilot program approved by the City Council Tuesday.

The changes -- which focus on making the devices safer and more affordable -- will result in two to three operators chosen this spring to run one of the nation's first micro-mobility programs.

More than 2.67 million individual rides have been taken on the shared devices over the past year after the first pilot program was launched in September 2018, half of those replacing car trips, City officials said.

"Shared e-bikes and scooters have proven their popularity," said Mayor Kevin McKeown. "We know they help clean our air, but now in our second pilot program we need to clean up safety issues and make sure car-free mobility is affordable and accessible.”

The new program -- which launches on July 1 -- is designed to also address "equity, sidewalk riding, parking, industry instability and oversight," officials said.

Among the program's goals are to keep administrative regulations flexible, "while improving safety, rider behavior, sustainability, and administrative outcomes," City officials said.

The new regulations will require "in-app safety messaging, specific parking incentives, expanded low-income offerings, pricing transparency, low emissions maintenance vehicles, commitment to affordable rates, and a progressive penalty structure to achieve greater compliance," staff said.

Under the new guidelines the number of total devices will remain at 3,250 "with two seasonal fleet caps that could be adjusted based on fleet utilization," staff said.

In November the Council extended the first pilot program to June 30 ("Santa Monica Banks on Future of Micro Mobility," November 13, 2019).

The extension allows the City to seek requests for proposals from operators and to "sharpen" the program by focusing on removing the electric devices from the city's sidewalks and make them more accessible to low-income users across the city.

The requests for proposals will be posted in March, and in April the City's Chief Mobility Officer will select the operators.

The Council also directed staff to seek proposals to run the City's Breeze Bike Share program, which has seen ridership drop amid competition from the private shared operators ("Santa Monica's Breeze Bike Share Up in the Air," November 14, 2019).

A Request for Information to survey options could be released in April or May, staff said.

The sudden popularity of e-bikes, and especially e-scooters, has triggered a backlash, with only 10 percent of non-riders surveyed by the City having a favorable view of their impact.

Many of the complaints have centered on safety, as users zip around town on the electric devices, often riding on sidewalks, which is illegal.

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