City Council votes against boardwalk ban for motorized scooters
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 05/23/18 - 03:00 PM | 34553 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A group of friends rides motorized scooters on the boardwalk in Mission Beach. / Photo by Thomas Melville
A group of friends rides motorized scooters on the boardwalk in Mission Beach. / Photo by Thomas Melville
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Shock, anger and relief for some was the local reaction to the City Council’s 6-3 vote May 22 against an emergency ordinance prohibiting motorized scooters on coastal boardwalks.

District 2 Councilmember Lorie Zapf, who proposed the ordinance, was joined by District 1 Councilmember Barbara Bry and District 5 Councilmember Mark Kersey in supporting a scooter boardwalk ban. 

Council members Chris Ward, Myrtle Cole, Scott Sherman, Chris Cate, David Alvarez and Georgette Gomez all turned thumbs down on the proposal. They argued either that they weren’t convinced of its necessity, or they felt the issue hadn’t yet been properly vetted. Sherman from District 7 said the problem was more about irresponsible people riding, than about the vehicles being ridden.

“I am disappointed that my colleagues failed to realize the tremendous public safety problem electric scooters present on the boardwalk,” said Zapf. “I intend to continue working with the police department, the lifeguard service and community leaders to refine the proposal so that it can gather majority support on the council.”

“We won’t be weighing in on the topic,” said San Diego Fire-Rescue spokesperson Monica Munoz. “We enforce the muni codes and other laws when they are enacted.”

Asked if the boardwalk is considered a sidewalk, San Diego Police Department spokesperson Lt. Brent Williams, answered: “Some parts are sidewalks and already prohibited. Some parts are a Class 1 bike way. That’s what the item at City Council was about.”

Of helmets, Williams said: “They are required for any rider who uses a scooter, age is not a factor. It is enforced and a number of citations have been written for this specific violation citywide.”

Concerning enforcement of the 8 mph speed limit on the boardwalk, Williams said: “Scooters do go faster than 8 mph, and 8 mph is the posted limit. Enforcement of this is also done on the boardwalk, and will continue to be enforced by SDPD.”

There was considerable agreement from Zapf’s constituency in Mission and Pacific beaches and Mission Bay, that motorized scooters on the boardwalk are a safety threat that needs to be addressed.

“I was disgusted,” said Scott Chipman, a 43-year PB resident. “The presentation on safety issues could not have been more convincing showing case after case of dangerous conditions on the boardwalk … Multiple videos of scooter crashes causing injuries were shown. The two City Council members who have beach boardwalks in their districts pleadings were ignored. The recommendations of police and life guard chief were ignored.”

Concurred Marcie Beckett, of PB, “Shame on City Council. The bay walk used to be a safe place for families to bring their little kids to ride bikes or roller skate. But not anymore due to the advent of motorized scooters zooming along without the skill or time to react to the unpredictable little ones. The City gets no revenue from the motorized scooter rentals, not even sales tax, but the taxpayers are on the hook for the cost of police enforcement, emergency response and negligence lawsuits from people who will be injured due to the reckless decision made today by City Council.”

Citing numerous complaints from his staff and hotel guests, Bill Allen, Crystal Pier Hotel chairman, said: “They are left daily in our hotel driveway locked, blocking our gate access. Guests as well as those walking along the boardwalk now have to dodge riders of these in congested times… The council members who voted against this proposed ban do not represent any coastal areas and, most likely, have not walked on the boardwalk lately.”

A counter perspective was offered by Circulate San Diego, a regional nonprofit promoting public and non-motorized travel.

“Since the introduction of dockless bike and scooter share earlier this year, San Diegans have begun to use active transportation more than ever before,” said Maya Rosas, the group’s policy director. “Circulate San Diego supports the use of dockless bike and scooter share as a form of transportation and spoke at City Council in opposition to the proposed ban. San Diego has embraced this innovative and green technology. A vote to ban scooters in our iconic boardwalks would have been a step in the wrong direction on the City’s road to get more people walking, biking, scooting, and taking transit.”

Said longtime PB community Planner Chris Olson: “Our leaders should support and promote alternative methods of transportation and find safe and effective methods to employ them. This emergency ordinance is a knee-jerk reaction to an important public safety issue, and it is the wrong approach. Yes, some people recklessly speed on scooters, skateboards, bikes, etc. But a blanket ban of motorized scooters on one section of the boardwalk is not a rational solution.”

Added Olson: “This ordinance targets a method of transportation rather than the true issue, which is speed. Will they ban electric bikes next? Every time I see people on these scooters they exude gleeful revelation. Don’t take that away.”

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