Day without a scooter in Santa Monica as firms protest possible rules change

- Bird and Lime, the operators of dockless electric scooters that have become a Millennial fad but have raised concerns about safety and cluttering of sidewalks, want supporters to descend on Santa Monica City Hall tonight to protest the firms' possible ouster from the municipality.

Both companies deactivated their electric scooters in Santa Monica for the day, staging a ``Day Without a Scooter'' protest in response to recently released recommendations from a municipal committee that would strip the firms of their ability to operate in the city.

A final decision has not been made, but Santa Monica is planning to implement a pilot program that would allow up to four operators of ``shared mobility devices,'' such as scooters and bicycles, with the chosen companies paying a base fee of $20,000 and per-device charges of roughly $130 a year.

The pilot program is expected to begin Sept. 17.

But according to the companies, the city is recommending that the operating permits for scooters be awarded to ride-hailing firms Lyft and Uber.

"Neither Lyft nor Uber has ever operated a scooter sharing service, and their services will be far more limited than what you have come to expect,'' Bird officials said in a letter to its users on Monday. "Giving complete control of sustainable transportation alternatives to Uber and Lyft is like giving Exxon and BP a monopoly on solar power.''

Lime sent out a similar missive, saying the company's network in Santa Monica ``has been a model for the nation and we have worked closely with the city to meet the needs of residents and visitors. We feel our work in the Santa Monica community warrants a reconsideration of this recommendation.''

Bird officials called on its customers to gather at 5 p.m. at Santa Monica City Hall, where the City Council is scheduled to meet, even though the scooter issue is not on the agenda.

The city issued a statement insisting that the committee's recommendations are not final. That ultimate decision will be made by David Martin, the city's Planning and Community Development director.

"Existing shared mobility operators -- Bird and Lime -- can continue service in Santa Monica under the terms of their current permits through Sept. 16,'' according to the city. ``Mobility partners selected to participate in the 16-month Shared Mobility Pilot Program are expected to begin operation on Sept. 17. The city of Santa Monica is not involved in any decisions that current operators make to stop or suspend service.''

The city noted that people who want to comment on the pilot program can do so through 2 p.m. Friday by emailing kyle.kozar@smgov.net, and putting "Shared Mobility Pilot Program'' in the subject line.

The city also warned in the statement that people who want to speak during the public-comment portion of Tuesday's City Council meeting may be in for a long wait, since public comments are taken at the end of the meeting, meaning it will likely happen between 11 p.m. and midnight.

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