Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2018 – 9:01 PM
The Beverly Hills City Council approved an Urgency Ordinance to temporarily ban shared mobility devices, effective immediately. The vote required a 4/5 vote of the council and passed with a vote 4-1 with Vice Mayor John Mirisch voting nay.
Mirisch did not believe that a ban would solve the problem. He believes that the ban will require more enforcement measures and cause more problems.
The ordinance will prohibit shared mobility devices from being placed in any public right-of-way or on public property, operated in any public-right-of-way or on public property, or offered for use anywhere in the City of Beverly Hills.
Violations shall be dealt with by Traffic Control Officers, Parking Enforcement Officers, Police Officers, and those city officials designated and contracted to impound shared mobility devices, such as Ambassadors.
The duration of the ban will be dependent on the rapidity with which they determine mitigation for the safety hazard and nuisance of discarded scooters.
Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2018 – 5:05 PM
By Victoria Talbot
The Beverly Hills City Council Study Session was compelled with a sense of urgency following the inundation of dockless electric scooters that pose a real threat to public safety on City streets and sidewalks.
Representatives from Bird, Lime and Uscooters urged the City to regulate their products without the ban, but the council decided that tonight, at the 7 p.m. formal meeting, they will ban the scooters while they deliberate how the vehicles can be managed.
The City attorney is expected to produce a draft Urgency Ordinance to be deliberated and voted upon that will effect the ban and perhaps, will set up conditions for what the future of electric scooters will look like in Beverly Hills.
The City of Beverly Hills is just the latest one to be grappling with the immense problem of scooters that have suddenly taken over the City streets.
Problems cited include the dumping of scooters on public and private right of ways, issues arising with automobiles, pedestrians, tourists and others who share the roads and sidewalks, liability issues, helmets, the California State Vehicle Code and the business model that brought the unregulated devices into the City in the first place.
Every member of the City Council expressed deep concerns about the safety hazards, as did many of those who spoke during public comment. They also confirmed their feeling that the devices are a useful alternative, if managed properly, to solve mobility issues over short distances for many people.
Two residents called themselves members of “Gen Z” and said that the Council did not understand their need for the devices. Councilmember Lili Bosse disagreed, pointing out that the health and safety issues take precedence over everything else.
The Beverly Hills police reported that 100 percent of riders that have been cited or ticketed have not followed the laws, which call for a valid drivers’ license for riders,wearing helmets, riding next to the curb on streets without bike lanes, not riding tandem and having lights at night. Most of them did not know they were violating the California Vehicle Code. They report 100 warnings and 75 citations.
The BHPD also showed a clip from a local news station showing a bevy of riders on Rodeo Drive last weekend, who abandoned their vehicles all over the street when the police came. The same group appears to have ridden wildly through the parking structure in Century City. Though the Bird and Lime representatives said that their scooters are not operable after 9 p.m., the Bird representative said that people who charge them can activate them and may have been taking a “joy ride.”
Beverly Hills may not be ready yet for a rational use of the scooters. Without the bike path infrastructure that is available in Culver City and Santa Monica, Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli said, “it is a public safety hazard until there is a better business plan.”
Tim Harter, government relations officer for Bird, explained that he was tasked with “keeping up with the business model” for the company. Under questioning, he revealed that the company investigates to discover if there is anything that “prohibited us from operating” in a given locale. Once they determine that they can, they bring their scooters to the City – near other cities, like putting Birds in Santa Monica and Culver City that affect Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles and West Hollywood.
The aggressive strategy overwhelms the cities with unregulated scooters, forcing them to negotiate. “It moves the dial forward,” Harter said.
Councilmember Les Friedman called it “asking for forgiveness,” rather than “asking for permission.”
It is not clear how the City of Beverly Hills will implement any bans, but the City of Santa Monica rounded up all the Birds that were operating there on Friday and impounded them. Their ban will be six months while they negotiate with up to four agencies to provide a limited number of scooters in the city under strict controls that may include geo fencing to prohibit their use on pedestrian thoroughfares.
Impound fees are set at cost, and currently there are less than a twenty in police impound. But the council may decide to expand the power to impound to other agencies, including the Ambassadors or Public Works.
At present, there are no “Bird Nests” in Beverly Hills, or dropping points for the scooters. Scooters are charged by non-employees, usually users who take them home and plug them in to charge. “Chargers” or “Juicers” can be paid as much as $5/scooter each night. They can be dropped off anywhere and users can ride through the City and drop them in the City. It is not clear how that will be handled, but it is clear that the police will crack down on violations.
Company representatives argued that they provide free helmets to users- which will be issued upon request. They did not disclose that the request has to come following the first ride and arrives in the mail, which is not useful for the large tourist population in the City.
Vice Mayor John Mirisch did not support an all-out ban; he was amenable to a “draconian” enforcement sweep that would begin immediately, that he called a “zero tolerance” policy. He did, however, support suspension while the City contemplates how to make this work.
But Mayor Julian Gold was livid, he said. “I am beyond offended by the manner in which this was rolled out. To intentionally impose on cities the risks in an effort to make a profit is unconscionable. No one has to grant forgiveness. The manner in which you rolled this out is a wanton disregard for the public safety – and it is our public. You guys could care less. You wanted to move the needle. You moved it too far. This is a wanton disregard for public safety. Given my ‘druthers I would ban you for life or longer… I would stick your executives in jail and not the kids who ride the scooters.”
The Beverly Hills City Council will consider the adoption of an Urgency Ordinance tonight at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers.