Are Scooters for the Birds or Are the Birds Ready to Fly in LA?

ALPERN AT LARGE--In my last piece on those Bird scooters showing up everywhere, I may have come across as too "anti-scooter", which is not consistent with the pro-mobility efforts I've pursued for many years. 

That said, the guerrilla-marketing-sans-safety-controls approach from Bird has left me, and many of my fellow Angelenos, rather cold. Are the injuries and emergency room visits being reported? No. Is the prevalence of helmet-wearing being reported? No. Is the threat to pedestrians on sidewalks being reported? Also ... no. 

Hence the approach of my colleagues on my neighborhood council and my homeowner’s association appear to be in a rather uniform direction:  

Bird and other scooters have tremendous upside potential for mobility, but until their riders choose safety as co-equal in importance to mobility, Bird will require limit-setting. 

Which, to some degree, we've seen from CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz and his colleagues, who report a series of new rules from the Los Angeles City Council as of September 4th: 

1) Records of reported collisions on a monthly basis and an adherence to state safety standards. 

2) A limit of 15 miles per hour for electric scooters, with front and rear lights required. 

3) No riding on sidewalks, yielding to pedestrians, and WEARING HELMETS.  

4) Scooters to be parked upright and not parked on crosswalks, corners, curb ramps, or in a manner that impedes sidewalk usage and the public right of way. 

5) A cap on the number of vehicles throughout the City, and encouragement of vehicles in low-income and disadvantaged communities. 

6) Maintenance operators to provide logs and a staffed operations center, with the LADOT proposing a new data standard 

7) Evaluation of the required data-gathering in a year to establish how this pilot program has worked out well, and where recommendations are needed to reduce injury and to create bicycle-enhanced networks to support new dockless transport. 

To Councilmember Koretz's credit, his concerns about data and pragmatic safety/mobility concerns make a great deal of sense. Paul Koretz fought like hell for the Expo Line as a state Assembly member long before it became popular to be pro-Expo but has also not been too quick to trample the needs of motorists.  

Koretz's demands for DATA with respect to expanding and coordinating bicycle lanes and dockless scooter usage is in welcome and sharp contrast to what we've seen on Venice Blvd. in CD11, where Mayor Garcetti and an agenda-driven new LADOT leadership has yet to come up with DATA for what is clearly an unsupportable and failed Venice Blvd. Road Diet experiment... 

...but I digress. Thanks to Paul Koretz and others on the LA City Council, the upside potential of Bird and other scooters now has a chance to be balanced with safety.  

More mobility, and hopefully fewer E.R. visits by injured Bird users and the pedestrians they've slammed into again and again and again... 

But while the popularity of Bird and Lime speaks volumes about an unmet mobility/transportation need in Los Angeles (as with Uber and Lyft), the details of safety, sustainability, and impacts on other forms of transportation reasonably needs to be figured out. 

Let's see if the Birds are ready to fly safely and profitably in the City of the Angels.


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)