San Diego City Council on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019 narrowly approved a ban on electric scooters and other motorized devices along the boardwalks from La Jolla to Mission Beach.
The move followed a sustained public outcry from local residents about the dangers of people whizzing along the boardwalk well above the 8 mph speed limit.
“This is clearly a public safety issue,” said District 1 City Council member Barbara Bry, who has led the push for the ban for over a year.
District 2 City Council member Jennifer Campbell also strongly supported the proposal at Monday’s public hearing.
“I almost got run over on Easter Sunday,” she said. “That was the last time I tried to walk on the boardwalk.”
Other council members who voted for the ban included Monica Montgomery, Vivian Moreno and Mark Kersey.
Council president Georgette Gómez, Chris Ward, Chris Cate and Scott Sherman voted in opposition.
Sherman suggested that traditional bicycles and scooters were as much of a hazard as the motorized devices.
“I think we’ve been missing the bigger discussion,” he said. “I don’t like saying motorized scooters are bad, scooters you push are good.”
Scooter companies, such as Lime and Bird who have opposed the ban, will now be required to use geofencing technology to slow their devices down to 3 mph in the boardwalk areas to discouraging riding. The prohibition will not apply to motorized devices for the disabled.
Areas off limits to motorized riders include the boardwalks in Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, Mission Bay Park, Bayside Walk and La Jolla Shores.
Dozens of residents showed up to support the ban.
“I don’t know how to say this nicely or politely, but this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen in Mission Beach,” Jennie Lenhart said of the situation along the boardwalk. “For this to have even happened in the first place, I’m appalled by the City Council. It’s a matter of greed is all I can say. I don’t see any sense in it.”
A number of residents said, increasingly, people are riding their own electrically powered mobility devices, which can go faster than those provided by dockless scooter companies.
“This is not so much about shared mobility devices as it is the onslaught of personally owned, privately owned motorized devices,” said Paul Wilson. “They’re a hazard. Motorized vehicles don’t belong out there.”
Council president Gómez said she would not support the ban because it would be challenging for law enforcement to ensure that people follow the rules: “Even before this there are certain things that are prohibited that are still occurring because we’re not capable of enforcing.”
Council member Kersey — who ended up being the swing vote in favor of the ban — first signaled a reluctance to support the proposal also out of concern that it would be difficult to crack down on violators.
“It strikes me, as I weigh how I’m going to vote on this, that a lot of this, in fact almost all of it, comes down to enforcement,” he said. “We can have a ban but if it’s not enforced, people are not going to listen to it.”
The San Diego Police Department has not been able to enforce the 8 mph speed limit along the boardwalk using radar guns because the City has not done a state-required speed study for the area. Authorities said that they have had to rely on identifying speeders visually.
Moments before the vote, Council member Bry made one last plea for support, arguing that the ban would actually make it easier for police officers to enforce the rules.
“The one thing about this ban is that it’s very clear cut,” she said. “The motorized device is either on the boardwalk or it’s not, so I think it actually makes it easier to enforce. We’re not in this murky area of how fast or slow is something going.”
The new ban comes atop regulations in San Diego on dockless scooter companies that went into effect in July. The rules require companies to use geofencing technology to limit speeds to 8 mph in certain locations, such as Balboa Park and previously along the boardwalk.
Scooter companies have complained that such rules have significantly impacted ridership, which fell sharply between July and October, according to City data.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has also proposed instituting a midnight curfew on e-scooters. The council has yet to take up the proposal, which includes a number of other changes to the regulations approved this summer.
E-scooters controversy remains
So much controversy has followed since the arrival of the electric-scooter boom in San Diego County. Many local residents say they are fed up with “scooter pollution” and want scooters banned completely, especially since they are regularly left blocking sidewalks and other public spaces — as the following photos submitted frequently by readers of this publication during the past year show: