One of the companies operating dockless electric scooters in Los Angeles said Friday that proposed regulations to reduce their operating speed would actually make them less safe.
The Los Angeles City Council’s Transportation Committee forwarded a set of guidelines this week that would include capping the top speed of the devices at 12 miles per hour.
Lime, one of the major companies operating scooters in Los Angeles and other Westside communities, says on its website that its scooters have a top speed of 14.8 mph.
“We support regulations that put rider safety first, but urge the City Council to reconsider implementing a speed cap on scooters as it places a one-size-fits-all framework without considering other varying factors like topographies (hills, flat streets, etc.) and neighborhood speed limits,” Mary Caroline Pruitt, a communications manager for Lime, told City News Service in an email.
“More importantly, by slowing traffic, the proposed regulation would increase safety concerns; an average cyclist bikes at a speed of 15-20 mph, so imposing a scooter speed cap of 12 mph would disrupt the flow of traffic in bike lanes and streets, which could cause safety hazards.”
Pruitt also said that the company supports “regulations that would require scooters to have speedometers with speed visible, so that riders are aware, and can be in better control, of how fast they are riding. We believe that requiring speedometers, along with continued rider education, will be the most effective way to promote safety.”
Pruitt did not immediately respond to a follow-up email asking if all Lime scooters operating in L.A. have speedometers, but various media reports from around the country suggest at least some Lime and Bird scooters come with speedometers.
Councilman Mike Bonin, who is supportive of the electric scooter industry, said he wanted the speed cap because he heard some companies were considering increasing their speed to be more competitive and attract customers.
Bird, another major company operating scooters on the Westside, did not respond to a request to comment and does not appear to advertise its scooters’ speeds on its website, but Bonin said he believed their top speed was 15 mph.
The scooters work through a phone app that allows people to find and unlock the devices and drop them off anywhere they are allowed, with no docking station or kiosk required.
The devices have proliferated in Westside communities this past year and have proven to be divisive, with some advocates saying they are a safe and environmentally friendly way to travel, while opponents argue they are a nuisance cluttering up sidewalks and streets with careless operators who often fail to obey safety laws.
The city of Beverly Hills recently enacted a six-month ban on electric scooters, and L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, who is on the Transportation Committee, recently introduced a motion to ban electric scooters in the city until full regulations are on the books. Koretz’s position reversed his earlier support of the devices.
“When we had a hearing in our Transportation Committee [in June], at the time I had seen about three of them and I thought it wasn’t a big deal,” Koretz told City News Service. “I’ve probably seen a thousand since just on Beverly Boulevard where I live, and 100 percent have no helmet usage. … I’ve seen probably 20 go by with double on the scooter, which is very dangerous. On the commercial streets, everyone is illegally on the sidewalk.”
At the Transportation Committee meeting this week, Koretz also pointed out the problem of underage drivers and said he had recently been confronted by a 12-year-old who said he was going to run for City Council when he turned 18 so he could overturn Koretz’s proposed ban on scooters. Both Bird and Lime require drivers to be at least 18 and have a valid driver’s license.
“Well the fact that he’s mad because he’s a regular user of these at 12 sort of makes my point,” Koretz said.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said during a news conference this week that he supports electric scooters and wants to find a way to make them work in the city.