SANTA MONICA—On Wednesday, February 14, the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office prosecutors from the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office entered a plea agreement with Bird Rides, Inc. and Travis VanderZanden (collectively “Bird”), where the company will accept responsibility for violating a local law and pay large penalties.
According to a press release from the city of Santa Monica, prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against the motorized scooter company and its president in December 2017, after getting a referral from the City’s Code Enforcement Division. Bird employees, without required City authorization, flooded City public sidewalks with motorized scooters for rent on a daily basis. These scooters obstructed pedestrian access to public sidewalks, and blocked driveways and ADA Ramps. City staff warned Bird against continuing their illegal business activities. The city of Santa Monica issued multiple citations directing Bird to obtain proper business licenses, to remove the scooters from the public sidewalks, and to cease storing scooters within the public right of way.
Both were charged with multiple counts of violating local law by operating a commercial scooter rental business on the public right of way without a proper city business license and neglecting to comply with City administrative citations.
As part of the plea agreement, Bird agreed to:
-Secure proper City business licenses and work with the City’s Business License Division to ensure compliance with local business licensing regulations.
-Pay previously issued Administrative Citation fines totaling $6,115.63.
-Pay additional fines and investigative costs totaling $300,000.
-Run a weeklong public safety education campaign on the Big Blue Bus.
-Accept responsibility for Bird’s prior conduct, plead “No Contest” to an infraction and pay additional criminal fines of $200 plus statutory penalty assessments.
“With this agreement, Bird and VanderZanden acknowledge that they failed to comply with the City of Santa Monica’s business licensing requirements which are designed to protect the safety of the public,” said Deputy City Attorney Eda Suh. “Bringing this new business into compliance with local law achieves a fair and positive outcome for the people of Santa Monica.”
The plea agreement has to be approved by the California Superior Court before it becomes effective. Prosecutors and Bird will return to court on February 26 to seek Court approval of the agreement. The city of Santa Monica will delegate a large portion of the fines it collects to a broader public safety campaign for Vision Zero, which is the Santa Monica City Council’s goal of stopping deaths and serious injuries from traffic crashes.
The city of Santa Monica will work with Bird Rides to address safety concerns posed by unsafe operation of motorized scooters. The California Vehicle Code prohibits them from being used on sidewalks or on the beach bike path and riders must have a valid driver’s license and wear a helmet. Only one person can use the device. The Santa Monica Police Department has worked to educate riders on requirements and has started citing motorized scooter riders for State Law violations.
-Wearing a helmet is required for all ages.
-You must ride on the road, never on the sidewalk.
-You may not park on the sidewalk in the way of pedestrian traffic.
-You must not ride at night unless the motorized scooter is equipped with proper lighting equipment, including a front light source which is visible from the front and sides, and reflectors.
Bird Inc. recently reduced the top speed of their scooters from 22 to 15 miles per hour; instituted a free helmet service for users; marked their vehicles with key safety rules; more clearly spelled out safety rules on their App; and improved their App security to help ensure that only those with a valid driver’s license can register to ride a scooter.