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Thursday, Dec 8, 2022
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Valley’s Streets Host Scooters

Those dockless scooters that have adorned sidewalk corners in Venice and Hollywood have started to show up in portions of the San Fernando Valley. But of the seven scooter companies operating in the city on conditional use permits issued by the Department of Transportation, only Lime has scooters in the Valley. Those are primarily in the arts district area of North Hollywood and in Sherman Oaks. Also, their scooters can be found in the Warner Center area of Woodland Hills and along Ventura Boulevard. Stuart Waldman, president of Valley Industry & Commerce Association, the Van Nuys business advocacy group, declared that scooters are “pretty neat.” Previously, transportation advocates and the public in general had been focused on getting people to ride bicycles. But in the Valley, especially during the hot summer months, they are not likely to ride a bike on their way to work or in the middle of the day, Waldman said. “This is an alternative that does not require a lot of effort and is not going to cause people to sweat,” he added. “I think it’s the future.” Attempts to reach a representative of Lime, owned by Neutron Holdings Inc., and Spin, owned by Ford Motor Co., were not successful. But in an email to the Business Journal, a spokesperson for a third scooter provider, Bird in Venice, said the company was honored to serve the city with its alternative to sitting in traffic. “Bird looks forward to serving the San Fernando Valley as part of L.A.’s year-long pilot and bringing our reliable last mile transportation solution to parts of the city that would benefit from having access to additional mobility options,” the statement said. Los Angeles City Council approved in September a one-year pilot program for scooter operators. Receiving a permit allows the companies to deploy up to 3,000 scooters citywide. The companies will have the opportunity to activate up to an additional 2,500 scooters in low-income neighborhoods and up to 5,000 more devices specifically for the Valley. All must contain signage to not be operated on the sidewalk. Additionally, the providers must have plans for giving access to low-income residents, such as cash and non-smart phone options. Most operators charge $1 to unlock the scooter and then 15 cents to 26 cents per minute of riding. While helmets are not required, they are encouraged. Riders must be 18 years or older. Mass transit connection Bart Reed, executive director of the Transit Coalition, a mass transit advocacy group based in the Valley, believes that scooters present a “terrific solution” when it comes to the first mile/last mile of using public transportation. “It is an opportunity that has been waiting,” Reed said. First mile/last mile is the concept of getting from home to a transit stop – the first mile – and then from the transit stop to an office or other destination – the last mile. “It does enable more people to take mass transit,” said Richard Katz, a consultant and former member of the California Assembly who helped create the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro. Low-income areas, such as Sylmar, Pacoima and the city of San Fernando would seem like natural places to place scooters to get to a ridership that could use them. Often these areas have bus service that doesn’t operate in the evenings, Reed added. In the case of Canoga Park, in the west Valley, there is a bus line on Saticoy Street, but it does not operate on weekends, he continued. “That is an area where dockless scooters would be great because then you could take the scooters from the Orange Line at Sherman Way or Roscoe (stations) to get the final mile to your home,” Reed said. Bob Blumenfield, the City Council member who represents much of the west Valley, including Canoga Park, wants to see more transportation options in his district, especially those allowing residents to reach transit stops or make short trips without using a car, said his spokesman Jake Flynn in an email to the Business Journal. “He believes that dockless scooters play an important role in achieving that goal,” Flynn wrote. As chair of the Council’s Public Works Committee, Blumenfield played a role in crafting the rules and safety regulations for the scooter pilot program. Among the provisions in the regulations are for the scooter companies to pay a $20,000 annual permit fee and $130 per year fee for each scooter deployed (or $39 in low income communities); to carry $5 million in liability insurance coverage; and to respond within two hours about improperly parked scooters. Sidewalk parking How scooters are parked has become an critical issue. So much so that some people, according to media reports, have taken to vandalizing the vehicles. The city has designated 30 areas as parking places for scooters and electric bicycles but those are all in downtown Los Angeles. Reed, of the Transit Coalition, thinks that having designated parking areas would work in the Valley. A street such as Sherman Way would be a good choice, he said. “You can take a parking place, make a corral and they will be out of the way,” Reed added. Flynn said that Blumenfield thinks scooter operators should work with Metro, the county transit agency, and property owners to create designated parking areas near entrances to shopping malls and office buildings. “He is working to ensure that the city has the resources necessary to enforce scooter parking regulations including removing unpermitted or improperly parked scooters,” Flynn said in his email. Katz, the consultant, said that his primary concern about scooters is safety. People can look at scooters as being a fun toy instead of the transportation vehicle they are and so they may not be as aware of other vehicles and people around them. “It requires a lot of discipline on behalf of the person standing on it to be aware of what is going on around them and to remember they are in traffic with no real protection at all,” Katz said. While never having used a scooter himself, Katz said he knows people who do to go to a nearby store or friend’s house. “You don’t have the parking issues or gas issues and you don’t need to have a car to get around with a scooter,” he added. It may take some time to learn how to integrate these vehicles into the overall transportation scheme of city neighborhoods. They do provide a service that shouldn’t be lost, Katz said. “At the same time, we want to make sure that people remember safety first, safety first, safety first,” he added.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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