A passionate give-and-take lauded the benefits of rental e-scooters at Tuesday’s Goleta City Council meeting, as well as decrying their deficits. On the one hand they were a perk for short-distance airport visitors, small-income chargers, and the environment, but on the other, bad news for public safety, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the environment. At the end of nearly three hours, the council voted unanimously to ban the scooters immediately, on pain of a $100 impound fee per scooter, but also agreed to work toward a pilot program for the region with other jurisdictions. The scooters disappeared from the city soon after.
More than 30 community members showed up to voice a range of opinions — in addition to the more than 300 written comments the city received — including Mariah Clegg, a sociology doctoral student at UCSB, whose rallying speech that scooters were “electronic waste, carbon-intensive to produce, with parts made from minerals acquired through bloody conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa and ecological degradation in Chile — that’s where you get lithium,” produced scattered applause and caused the next speaker, who opposed the ban, to say she was now worried about e-waste, though she praised the scooters’ ability to get people a last-mile distance without using a car.
Bird and Lime were excoriated roundly by the council for dumping their products on the city without first seeking a business permit, and a representative from Spin, another scooter company, introduced herself and her company as ready to work on a permitted pilot program.
In the end, the council voted for the ban, citing the dangers to riders in the paths of cars as well as to people in wheelchairs or on foot. Scofflaws could face $196 tickets. On the other hand, the cheap transportation offered by the scooters as well as their ubiquity was not to be ignored. As one letter writer said, horse owners were no more fond of the automobile than people are of rental scooters. Recognizing the many who immediately jumped onto the scooters — 400,000 rides in Portland, Oregon, in a month and a half, according to one study — the council directed city staff to work with SBCAG (Santa Barbara County Association of Governments) to pursue a regional pilot program based on what they learned from the data collected by the scooter companies. They also asked staff to plan enforcement protocols, policing, and education for riders. A non-emergency ordinance was also approved, to counter the lawsuit threatened by Bird.
Late word into the Independent was that the scooters had surfaced in Noleta, County of Santa Barbara land, though the app shows no Bird scooters available there. The Board of Supervisors will consider an impound fee of $300 next Tuesday, according to Goleta’s staff report.