City Council approves pilot that will allow e-scooters on Long Beach's beach bike path

E-scooters had been banned from the path since 2018 because of safety concerns but a new pilot program will allow them back on the path this year.

City Council approves pilot that will allow e-scooters on Long Beach's beach bike path
The Long Beach bike path will soon have e-scooters operating on it, something that hasn’t happened since 2018.

Electric scooters will be allowed back on the Long Beach bike path starting after the City Council voted Tuesday night to approve a pilot program that could see scooter riders on the path for up to 12 months.

The council voted 6-1 Tuesday to temporarily allow scooters like those rented in the city through companies such as Lime and Bird back onto the path as the city assesses if they create safety issues.

“This has been a priority of mine since I got elected and I know it’s a priority of the residents,” said Councilmember Cindy Allen, who asked for scooters to be let back on the path earlier this year.

Allen shared data that she said Lime, one of the e-scooter vendors operating in the city, provided to her showing that over 1,400 people have opened their app looking for a scooter along the bike path this year but were unable to find one because of the current ban.

“It’s clear there is a strong demand for scooters along the bike path,” she said.

Public Works Director Eric Lopez said Tuesday that a number of issues still need to be worked out before the program goes into effect, including how scooters will be collected along the path, where the designated parking spots will go and where the city will post signage to help regulate the program.

“There is a bit of work that needs to happen as we prepare to make this pilot work,” Lopez said.

Lopez added that it could be a few months before the program is ready to launch.

A memo published by the city earlier this month said the city has registered 113 scooter-related crashes since it started tracking them in 2018 but none of those have been on the path because of the ban.

Shortly after scooter companies were allowed to begin operations in Long Beach the council implemented the ban because of concerns that abandoned scooters lying along the path and the actions of scooter riders could create safety issues for the cyclists and pedestrians that use the city’s bike paths.

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Companies have used “geo-fencing” technology to keep the scooters off the beach path by powering them down or not letting riders end a ride along the path, but that will soon change.

Public Works officials said Tuesday that the introduction of scooters back onto the path could include the use of “slow zones” where there are a lot of pedestrians present along the path, like crossings at stairwells.

“I know that in areas of Downtown, specifically around Broadway and Pine, those slow zones exist where they take you way down when you’re crossing into more populated areas with pedestrians,” said Councilmember Megan Kerr, who co-sponsored the item.

Councilmember Kristina Duggan, who represents the area of the city that includes Belmont Shore, raised several concerns including the fines for abandoned or dumped scooters, what kind of vehicles will be used to collect the scooters on the path and the amount of time the city plans to spend enforcing the proposed program.

“Two to three hours doesn’t seem like enough time,” Duggan said.

Duggan voted against the pilot Tuesday night.

Charlie Mastoloni, the senior manager of government affairs for Lime, said the company could implement slower speed zones for its scooters and ensure that scooters end up in designated parking areas with its geo-fencing technology rather than abandoned along the path.

“We’re going to continue to review all photos at the end of trips to ensure they’re ending up where they belong and continue to work with the city to make sure that the opening of its beach path is a success and is safe for everyone involved,” Mastoloni said Tuesday.

The city is also expected to post new signs to alert scooter riders that they’re only allowed to ride on the bike path and not the pedestrian path, which is used by runners and joggers. The pilot program will allow the city’s director of Public Works to end the pilot if there are any public safety concerns or other issues that crop up over the next year.

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