Whether or not rented electric scooters are the “Santa Claus of personal transportation,” as Goleta Councilmember Stuart Kasdin called them with some irony, it’s their inconvenience rather than convenience that is causing backlash in the city. The rentals are being left on front yards, parks, driveways, and sidewalks, said Kelly Hoover, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office, which polices Goleta. An “urgency ordinance” to ban the scooters comes up at City Council on December 4, a stop-gap until a full ordinance can be written.
Of about 50 emails sent to City of Goleta mailboxes so far, sentiments are running 7:1 in favor of a ban on Bird or Lime scooters, and this is only the first week of comment, city spokesperson Valerie Cantella pointed out. Feelings are running high, however, with the 27 fully in favor of a ban making their points with spicy language, ranging from calling scooter providers “opportunistic parasitic companies” only interested in “short-term private greed” to stating riders are “maniacal” as they “swerve” and “zip” through parking lots and around pedestrians. On the other hand, about five writers praise the scooters for bringing “life and vibrancy” to “dead” areas of the city, and several more ask the council to work out a “happy medium” instead of an outright ban.
Among the dangers many of the “no scooters” majority cite are the illegal actions they’ve witnessed — riding on sidewalks, riding double, riding at night, children riding without a helmet, and leaving their rides strewn across sidewalks. All are illegal under California’s Vehicle Code. When on the road, Sheriff’s spokesperson Kelly Hoover affirmed, the scooters are to remain in bike lanes. If there’s no bike lane, they may only take roads limited to 25 mph or slower, and riders must stay close to the right-hand curb. Many of the “nay” writers feared accidentally running over the scooter riders because they weave back and forth across the street — even on highway overpasses — at night and without lights.
Kasdin, who raised the urgency ordinance at the October 16 council meeting, called the companies’ operating method a “classic bureaucratic thing. You take action and apologize later.” The scooters are prevalent at the Marketplace, which isn’t far from Isla Vista and their target customers, but they’re also showing up along Calle Real and in Old Town. “It isn’t that there are so many,” Kasdin said, “but the sidewalks are so narrow, and the scooters are inappropriately left in the way, making it difficult to get around them.”
They’ve also been left at the train station in Goleta, Kasdin had heard, which seemed a reasonable place to find temporary transportation like electric scooters or bicycles. “There may be some sort of compromise arrangement for certain areas,” he said, “that would make everyone happy.” But if the emergency ordinance passes at the Goleta council next Tuesday, the rental scooter companies could find permits, confiscation, and penalties in their Christmas stockings.