The e-scooters are here to stay, Long Beach.
The City Council voted at its Tuesday, May 14 meeting to approve an ordinance that would permanently allow the vehicles to roam Long Beach streets — and could more than triple their numbers.
Scooters are currently operating under a pilot program in Long Beach, which the city launched in July. Under the pilot, 1,800 scooters are allowed in the city. But the permanent program will increase that number to 4,000 for the first six months and move to 6,000 after that.
The unanimous vote was a first reading and will come back to the panel for a final reading at its meeting next week. If the council approves it once more, the ordinance will go into effect 30 days later.
The long-term program will allow up to six companies to operate in Long Beach. Currently, scooters from five companies are available: Bird, Lime, Spin, Skip and Razor.
Uscooter previously operated in the pilot program but has since dropped out.
Public Works Director Craig Beck said those scooter companies will not get any type of priority or favorable treatment in the permanent program. Every company, including those already running in Long Beach, will have to submit a new application.
Companies will be chosen on a first-come, first-served basis, as long as they are able to meet all of the city’s requirements. Beck added that the program was written so as not to be limited to electric scooters; companies that rent electric bikes could be eligible to operate in the program, as well.
One of the requirements that vendors will have to adhere to that was not included in the pilot program is the ability to geo-fence, or use technology in the scooters to prevent them from being ridden in areas where they’re prohibited, like in parks or on the beach path.
Companies will also be required to provide comprehensive monthly reports to the city that includes data on how many scooters are being used, where they’re being used, how long trips are and more.
As part of the vote, City Councilman Rex Richardson said he wanted to make sure the program is an equitable one, where scooters and bikes are accessible to all Long Beach residents.
He said the city’s bike share program did not include measures to ensure the bikes made their way up to his district in North Long Beach, so that never happened.
“The lesson I’ve learned,” he said, “is we need to put these things in the policy on Day One.”
Richardson said he’d like to see companies be required to distribute 40% of their scooters in parts of the city that are shown to be the most affected by pollution through CalEnviroScreen ratings.
In addition to having a better understanding of how companies are operating in the city, Beck said the program would also equip Long Beach with more tools to enforce rules like the one Richardson proposed.
The idea of informing the vendors about the city’s regulations when they apply and assessing their applications based on those rules, Beck said, is to tell them: “If you want to operate in Long Beach,” he said, “this is what you’re going to have to comply with.”
Sign up for The Localist, our daily email newsletter with handpicked stories relevant to where you live. Subscribe here.