Scooter tampering ‘is absolutely a crime’ and endangers riders
by EMILY BLACKWOOD
Published - 07/24/19 - 10:55 AM | 4287 views | 9 9 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ocean Beach resident Amanda Johnson was injured when she fell off her Bird scooter after realizing its brakes didn’t work. Courtesy photos.
Ocean Beach resident Amanda Johnson was injured when she fell off her Bird scooter after realizing its brakes didn’t work. Courtesy photos.
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Earlier this month, Ocean Beach resident Amanda Johnson hopped on a Bird scooter she had ridden up to to her house on Newport Avenue. As she made her way back down the hill, she noticed a lot of traffic through the intersection of Ebers Street. She hit the brakes, attempting to slow down, only to realize they weren’t working. 

“I had this moment of clarity where I knew I’d either go into traffic or try to somehow slow down or stop,” Johnson said. 

In an effort to stop the scooter, Johnson put her foot down on the sidewalk, causing her and the device to flip. She skidded onto the ground and sustained injuries to her chin — which required seven stitches to fix — and knees, road rash to her chest and hands, and bruises all over her body. 

“Luckily my neighbor was outside and saw the whole thing,” she said. "She guided me into her house and found my phone somewhere on the street. When I ended the ride, I gave it one star and wrote ‘I’m on my way to the emergency room, somebody cut my cables.”

Evidence of scooter tampering has occurred in Pacific Beach as well. Popular Instagram account @pacific.beach has shared multiple photos and videos of what they claim to be people cutting brake lines on scooters. 

Bird would not comment specifically on the complaints of brake tampering, only saying: "Vandalism of any kind should not be accepted, full stop. Vandalism can include damage to local storefronts, broken windows of cars, and theft or destruction of e-scooters. 

"At Bird, we have zero tolerance for vandalism and aggressively address it when it occurs in communities where we are meeting peoples’ needs for sustainable transportation options. We encourage everyone in these communities – whether they ride Bird or not – to report vandalism done to or with our vehicles as we are committed to acting swiftly and effectively. If you see something, report it to us at hello@bird.co. Bird investigates all reports of vandalism and takes appropriate measures, including working with law enforcement." 

According to San Diego Police Department Lt. Shawn Takeuchi, other than Johnson’s incident, there have been no other vandalism reports filed regarding brake tampering for Bird, Lime or Lyft.

“Recently there have been some social media posts about individuals cutting brake lines,” Takeuchi said. “First and foremost, cutting brake lines is a crime. It’s either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the amount of damage that’s caused. 

“There is a chance people are cutting brake lines because they are unhappy with scooters in their community,” Takeuchi said. “That is not a way to send a message. It’s absolutely a crime.”

This wasn’t the first time Johnson experienced scooter tampering. Not only had she witnessed people cutting the brake lines on Lime and Bird scooters, but she also rode a different Bird scooter months earlier that she realized had broken brakes. Luckily she had plenty of time to let the scooter slow down on its own before ending her ride. 

“I’ve definitely seen people at the end of Newport Avenue tampering with scooters and even Lime bikes,” she said. “There’s all sorts of evidence of this all across Ocean Beach."

At the time of this writing, Johnson said Bird had only paid for the ride she had taken during the accident. She’s considering hiring a personal injury attorney and did file an incident report with police.

“With the brake cables, it’s only the older versions of these Birds that have them actually accessible,” Johnson said. “Newer versions don’t have the wires out there. Like they’re trying to take care of that, but they should probably take the ones with the wires off the streets because it’s becoming a pretty apparent issue."

Takeuchi said the reason he believes brake tampering hasn’t been reported is because with a crime of vandalism there has to be victim and a witness. SDPD encourages citizens who see brake tampering or other scooter vandalism going on to take photos and videos and call the police. 

“Most importantly, [citizens] can’t just call and move on with their lives,” he said. “They have to remain there so an officer can talk to them. Because legally, if a misdemeanor is not committed in the officer’s presence, an officer can not make an arrest. It has to be a citizen’s arrest." 

Now, citizen’s arrest doesn’t mean residents are expected to “go out and put handcuffs” on the person responsible. All it means is that they have to stay at the scene and sign a piece of paper attesting to the fact that they saw the crime occur and that they’re making the arrest. 

“We need a citizen’s arrest by the witness so we can take the suspect into custody. In the event the suspect leaves, we definitely don’t want the witness to follow them or put themselves in danger. Instead we’ll take a report, document the crime, collect any video, photographs or evidence and do a follow-up investigation,” Takeuchi said.

While no scooter vandalism arrests have been made yet in San Diego, Johnson has a few choice words to the people who are cutting brake lines. 

“You’re not doing anything to Bird, you’re just trying to kill me,” she said. “Thank you for nothing. Thank you for making no difference in this world. Thank you for becoming a bigger problem."

Comments
(9)
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Shauna MacKenzie
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July 30, 2019
Her name is *Amanda DOLANCE* not Johnson.
Adolance
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July 30, 2019
To those calling me “dumb” for not checking the brakes... I’m well aware of my error. I rode the scooter up the hill to my house right before the incident to let my dogs out. Going up hill, you don’t really notice brake quality. I got back on it, never even accelerated, and quickly tried to slow down to no avail. My ride lasted less than a minute. Sometimes, accidents happen. Sometimes you overlook and trust in things publicly available to you because wouldn’t you just hope and believe that they should be safe? I’ve always encouraged people to check their brakes since my first encounter. The one, singular time I faltered... I could have died. Call me dumb if you want. But at least you read the story and hopefully you will never have to endure the pain that I did.
Chris Brewster
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July 29, 2019
What's left unsaid in this article is that renting a vehicle that has been left on the street in an unknown condition without thoroughly checking it first is hazardous. If you rent a car or a bike from a reputable rental company, they will have checked it before giving it to you. Under the scooter rental model, there is no preflight check by the company renting the vehicle. You've got to do it yourself.

Most people wouldn't think to do this. In Johnson's case though, "Not only had she witnessed people cutting the brake lines on Lime and Bird scooters, but she also rode a different Bird scooter months earlier that she realized had broken brakes." If she had witnessed this and had this experience, its hard to understand why she would not have checked the brakes before her fateful ride. That should be the message to all. There is no way to ensure that scooters left unattended on the street are safe.

This all highlights how we are impacted by "disruptive" technologies that reduce costs by eliminating human beings in the businesses. As bike rental companies with actual workers who check the bikes and rent them are displaced by apps, we not only have loss of employment, we have degradation of safety.
jacob anton
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July 25, 2019
things in public break....how dumb do you have to be to not check the brakes before you go down a steep hill or even start your journey on a random public device. this girl is as dumb as she looks.
Ron Swanson
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July 25, 2019
The scooter didn't "break", it was criminally sabotaged. It's a good idea to check the brakes first, but to call someone "dumb" just shows what an a$$hole you are.
jacob anton
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July 25, 2019
the breaks were broken. i am an asshole but im not stupid ;)
Adolance
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July 30, 2019
Please read my comment. And for you to say I’m as dumb as I look? Wow. I rode the same scooter up the hill, and at that incline I didn’t notice the brake being faulty. I got back on several minutes later, never even accelerated, and that ride seriously could have killed me. Believe me, I’ve been kicking myself over it. And I’m far from “dumb”. I’d love to invite you to have an actual conversation with me and get to know me before you act and speak so crudely about and to me. I’m sure you have at least once in your life experienced an unfortunate mistake/accident.
Patti Ghio
|
July 24, 2019
Regarding the statement below in the article, the police would actually have to respond to a call with an officer being dispatched to the scene. Good luck with that.

“Most importantly, [citizens] can’t just call and move on with their lives,” he said. “They have to remain there so an officer can talk to them. Because legally, if a misdemeanor is not committed in the officer’s presence, an officer can not make an arrest. It has to be a citizen’s arrest."

Now, citizen’s arrest doesn’t mean residents are expected to “go out and put handcuffs” on the person responsible. All it means is that they have to stay at the scene and sign a piece of paper attesting to the fact that they saw the crime occur and that they’re making the arrest.

Robert Burns
|
July 25, 2019
The topic of citizen arrest is a red herring. No one sees or knows the perpetrator. Police cannot arrest, and the Courts cannot convict, ghosts.
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