SANTA MONICA—During its most recent meeting on Tuesday, March 6, the Santa Monica City Council approved an emergency ordinance placing temporary regulations for shared mobility systems and devices, as they work to develop a long-term regulatory framework.

According to a press release from the city of Santa Monica, the ordinance comes at a time when dockless mobility devices, including Bird electric scooters, have taken off in Santa Monica and the region. “Dockless” systems allow bikes and scooters to be left in any location, regardless of the presence of a rack, sometimes causing access and safety issues in the public rights-of-way.

“Santa Monica leads on mobility and we want to see innovative companies like Bird successfully operate here,” said Mayor Ted Winterer. “This ordinance balances public access and safety concerns with the popularity of convenient and sustainable transit choices that align with Santa Monica’s multi-modal culture.”

The Santa Monica City Council directed the following:

  • Amend the Santa Monica Municipal Code to establish that dockless mobility systems are subject to vending regulations per chapter 6.36.
  • An enforcement measure to protect the public rights-of-way, imposing an impound fee of $60 only when shared mobility devices pose an immediate hazard or obstruct access.
  • Staff will return to Council in the coming months for a study session to determine the components of a new regulatory framework for shared mobility devices like e-bikes and e-scooters, including a potential pilot program.

“We are eager to collaborate with shared mobility companies to develop a longer-term regulatory approach that enhances transportation options while protecting public safety and accessibility,” said Deputy City Manager Anuj Gupta. “In the meantime, we anticipate that companies will achieve voluntary compliance by limiting their vending of devices to private property locations.”

As an emergency ordinance, the new regulations will expire on January 1, 2019. Staff expects to bring city council new options before the expiration date.

Founded by former Uber and Lyft executive Travis VanderZanden, Bird has caught steam with locals in recent months. To utilize the devices, customers utilize a phone app to book and electronically unlock a scooter in close proximity. Once finished, customers lock the scooter up using their phone making it available to renters nearby.

In February 2018, the city of Santa Monica filed a criminal complaint against the company for violating several laws, including leaving scooters unattended on private property and operating a business without a license. They were able to reach a settlement agreement on February 14.

“We’ve made some good progress in working with the Santa Monica City Council in making sure that Bird can provide its environmentally-friendly transit option to the city. It is reasonable that that the city would want to recoup its costs for impounding vehicles. We are concerned that private contractors tasked with doing so may have a monetary incentive to indiscriminately impound Birds. We will be monitoring the situation closely and continue to work with the Council,” said Kenneth Baer, a spokesman for Bird.

Bird services in Santa Monica serves as a testing ground for the company. Birds are currently in Venice, UCLA, Westwood and San Diego. The company plans to be in 50 U.S. markets by the end of 2018. More information is available here:

Written by Don Girard and Donald Roberts