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Pismo Beach wants to ban these electric scooters — but SLO is keeping an open mind

Fresnans test out Bird electric scooters

The Bird company unveiled their electric scooters on Aug. 16, 2018 in different parts of Fresno and around Fresno State as part of a university tour across the United States.
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The Bird company unveiled their electric scooters on Aug. 16, 2018 in different parts of Fresno and around Fresno State as part of a university tour across the United States.

Electric scooters might not hit the streets of San Luis Obispo or Pismo Beach anytime soon.

Two weeks after scooter-sharing app Bird unsuccessfully planned to launch in San Luis Obispo, city officials and Bird representatives are hashing out if, and how, it could safely work here.

Meanwhile, Pismo Beach is making moves to ban electric scooter sharing businesses all together in an urgency ordinance next week.

The scooters have been controversial in other cities around the country, with supporters calling them a revolution in ridesharing and opponents calling them safety hazards and public nuisances.

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Big SLO Bike, a a new "social bike" modeled after pedal pubs in other cities, takes groups of 14 people on tours around downtown San Luis Obispo.

Users can check an app and find nearby scooters, which they then unlock with their phones. Once they are done with a scooter, they can then lock it with their phone and leave it for the next user to find.

Because they are dockless, the scooters can be left — or found — virtually anywhere.

San Luis Obispo Transportation Manager Adam Fukushima said the city recently met with Bird representatives to outline how their business works and public safety concerns.

Another scooter sharing company, Lime, has also expressed an interest in working with San Luis Obispo, he said.

Fukushima said he and the city have been talking with both companies and with other cities to learn about their experiences with the businesses.

“Just like any other business, they would need the appropriate license and permits to operate in the city,” he said. “City staff is in the process of preparing information for the City Council to be able to discuss next steps, which could include a process to get community input to determine if this is a good fit for San Luis Obispo.”

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Prompted in part by recent interest in the area, Pismo Beach city staff advised the City Council to approve an urgency ordinance that would ban scooter sharing businesses from dropping the vehicles into town without city approval.

“These devices come with significant safety concerns that have already arisen in other cities,” read a city staff report. “Motorized scooters cause safety hazards in the public right-of-way because they can travel up to 15 mph and are often used on sidewalks and without personal protective equipment, such as knee pads, elbow pads and helmets.

“Scooters are also left on sidewalks and other public locations due to the convenience of leaving them anywhere a customer’s trip ends.”

The ordinance would also allow the city to impound any scooters found illegally parked on public streets, sidewalks or parks.

The council will consider the ordinance at its meeting Tuesday night. If approved, it would go into effect immediately.

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Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie
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