Santa Monica taking popular electric scooter company to court

Josh Haskell Image
Friday, January 19, 2018
EMBED <>More Videos

Electric scooters operated by the company Bird have taken over the city of Santa Monica.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- Electric scooters operated by the company Bird have taken over the city of Santa Monica. Although demand is high with more than 30,000 riders in the first four months, the city is taking the company to court.

"We're not looking to destroy the company or shut them down. We understand that people are looking for ways to get around that are carbon-free, that are convenient. But we need to ultimately above all protect public safety and make sure our sidewalks and streets are safe places for all people," said Deputy City Manager Anuj Gupta.

Rides cost $1 and then 15 cents per minute. The Bird app locates an available scooter, you scan your phone, and you're off. Bird has a business license for their office, but Santa Monica says that license doesn't apply to scooters being parked, used and rented all over city streets.

"Under state law, you have to be a licensed driver to operate an electric motorized scooter and we see young teenagers on these that are being used on the sidewalks. That is both unsafe and unlawful," said Gupta. "They're being parked on the sidewalk. That creates obstructions for senior citizens, for young people, folks with disabilities trying to use our sidewalks to get around. They're being used at very high speeds and by riders without helmets."

You're more likely to see Santa Monica resident Keri White on a Bird scooter than driving her car.

"I would be heartbroken if they got rid of Bird. I love Bird. I take Bird all the time. I've had my whole family on Birds. Getting around Santa Monica can be really difficult. When you're in a car, it's hard to park and there's always traffic," said White.

White admits that some riders aren't careful enough and she's seen people riding in the middle of the street, even running red lights. Santa Monica says there have been eight collisions involving Bird scooters.

A 16-year-old tourist from Spain, Carlos Florez, has been riding Bird to explore the West side.

"It's very fun because you can go very fast and see a lot of things, and very cool. We took it from Venice and we came here in five, 10 minutes. Very fast," said Florez.

Bird and the city of Santa Monica have met to address public safety. In a statement, Bird's CEO Travis VanderZanden says "In addition to working with the city, safety is our top priority here and we're committed to doing all we can to ensure that each and every ride is a safe one. That includes educating our riders about how to ride a Bird safely and our recent "Free Helmet Initiative" that provides free helmets to all of our active riders."

A court date for the criminal complaint against Bird has been set for Feb. 1.