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La Jolla Shores board stands by dockless bike ban

Rather than sign on to a community resolution seeking regulation of the dockless bikes that have sprung up around San Diego, the La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) is standing by their request for a full-out ban. The Shores board, having sent a letter to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Council member Barbara Bry asking for the prohibition, voted during its May 9 meeting to not sign their name on the regulatory resolution circulating among La Jolla’s community advisory groups.

At the April meeting, the board voted to send a letter to the mayor asking for these companies to be put the companies on notice that they are not welcome in La Jolla Shores.

And while LJSA is the first La Jolla group to ask for a ban, they are not the only group in the greater San Diego area to work towards a prohibition.

For the last few months, La Jollans have expressed concern about the proliferation of and lack of community input about dockless bikes from companies such as LimeBike, ofo and MoBike; and electronic scooters, some also from LimeBike and others from a company called Bird.

A resolution was drafted that asks the City to “implement reasonable and balanced regulatory and infrastructure solutions to address the concerns of public safety and aesthetics generated by these forms of personal transportation.”

It cites the need for enforcement processes and “a system of recognized bicycle racks, as well as consideration of dedicated placement zones for dockless bicycles and other personal transportation vehicles which technically require no racking to be safely abandoned.”

A MoBike parked on Avenida de la Playa in La Jolla Shores Ashley Mackin-Solomon

Other La Jolla groups have signed on to the resolution — namely La Jolla Town Council; La Jolla Parks & Beaches; La Jolla Community Planning Association, which had the signing of this resolution on its consent agenda, so it was passed without discussion; Bird Rock Community Council, during a board of directors meeting ahead of its public monthly meeting; and La Jolla Traffic & Transportation.

When leaders from these and other community groups met to discuss the resolution, LJSA chair Janie Emerson said she opposed.

“I tried to impress on them what this what this does to The Shores and what it does for our businesses, because they don’t have the same issues as we do in La Jolla Village. So we are pretty much on our own. The other groups aren’t going to fight it,” she said during the May 9 LJSA meeting. “I was talking against the wall. I was flabbergasted. I don’t see this (resolution) as accomplishing anything, except benefiting tourists. … Their position is the antithesis of ours.”

LJSA trustee John Sheridan opined that the resolution reads “like an endorsement” of the dockless bikes.

The board originally took up dockless bikes during its March meeting, and expressed concerns about bikes being parked on sidewalks, in hedges and in front of other tax- and rent-paying businesses, and riders violating the laws by not wearing helmets and riding on sidewalks. There were also reports of bikes left on Walter Munk Way, the boardwalk that divides the beach from Kellogg Park.

Reflecting on the board’s opposition to the bike kiosks associated with DecoBike (now Discover Bike), LJSA trustee Terry Kraszewski added, “Two years ago, when DecoBike want to come to our community, we voted unanimously to keep them out … and they went to other communities. What La Jolla Village is suggesting is the very thing we fought with DecoBike.”

A motion to not sign on to the resolution passed 11-2-1.

LimeBikes, including one with a bent tire frame, are parked on the La Jolla Shores boardwalk, aka Walter Munk Way. Light File

Village Merchants stance

While listed as a board that could sign the resolution, the La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA) will not be signing the resolution due to some language that conflicts with an existing contractual obligation with the City.

LJVMA executive director Sheila Fortune told the Light the board would not grant another organization the right to speak for them, as suggested in the resolution. Specifically, the sections of the resolution that state: “We propose to designate the La Jolla Town Council to communicate with the City on our behalf as our shared recommendations evolve” and “the following organizations have empowered the La Jolla Town Council to transmit this resolution to our elected representatives.”

Bans in other communities

When discussed at the LJSA meeting, several trustees noted that other cities, such as Coronado, have effectively prohibited the bikes. In San Diego proper, District 2 City Council member Lorie Zapf successfully requested a prohibition of motorized scooters on select boardwalks. Zapf’s announcement was made after the LJSA meeting.

In Coronado, the City Council decided to deny the business permit needed for them to operate in the public right-of-way.

“The City Council decided because there are companies already operating, quite a few actually, where this is their sole business, it would hurt business. So they turned it down,” said Coronado City spokesperson Janine Zuniga. “It also keeps the City looking clean. … And although the Council did not vote to change any codes, the City Manager said staff would begin impounding the bikes, according to existing City policy relating to items left in the public right of way, and charging $45 each for the companies to retrieve them.”

To enforce this prohibition, Coronado Police Department spokesperson Lea Corbin explained: “When someone rides them over and they are left here, the public can call it in. We mark them with a bright notice giving the rider two hours to remove the property. If not, public services picks them up and stores them in the yard. The companies have to go and get them.”

As of May 10, Zuniga added, there are 27 bikes impounded at the Public Services yard.

She told La Jolla Light: “We still find them, but the numbers have dropped significantly. I see them all over San Diego, but not very much here. It seems to have dropped a lot.”

More locally, on April 20, Council member Zapf issued a memo to Mayor Faulconer asking for an emergency ordinance prohibiting motorizes scooters from the Mission Beach Boardwalk, Ocean Front Walk and Bayfront Walk (from the Crystal Pier south to the jetty). The ordinance is expected to be voted upon at City Council on May 22.

In the memo, she writes, “Reckless use of motorized scooters and e-bikes primarily along the Mission Beach Boardwalk, Ocean Front Walk and Bayfront Walk have resulted in collisions, accidents and bodily injuries. Currently, there are no clear regulations regarding the use of motorized devices at these locations. Our local authorities have faced new challenges to enforce motorized scooters and e-bikes that operate along these vulnerable areas.”

She held a press conference on May 11, where she announced she was asking for the bringing of an ordinance that would treat the boardwalk like a sidewalk, and ban the motorized scooter on the boardwalk like they are banned on sidewalks.

District 2 City Council member Lorie Zapf speaks about a proposed ordinance to treat the Mission Beach boardwalk like a sidewalk, thereby banning motorized scooters from the boardwalk. Ashley Mackin-Solomon

“I feel strongly that we must address this public safety issue immediately. Our boardwalk is filled with users of ages that do not exceed the 8 miles per hour speed limit. But once you mix in the electric scooters … they tend to well exceed the speed limit. It’s a bad accident waiting to happen and … it is my duty to limit liability to the City and the harm of our citizens. With summer rapidly approaching, now is the time to act,” she said.

Also in attendance at the press conference were representatives from the Mission Beach Town Council, Pacific Beach residents, interim lifeguard chief James Gartland and Northern Division Captain Tina Williams.

Gartland opened: “Lifeguards are expecting our beach crowds to double in June, they will triple in July and will stay at that level until September. Over the last several months, we have had 13 motorized scooter-related medical aids, lifeguards have been very busy. Lifeguards have to focus their energy on the beach and the water. The boardwalk will be much safer if you take off the motorized scooters.”

Williams added that since the beginning of the year, San Diego Police officers issued 43 verbal warnings to violating riders, issued 27 citations for riding a motorized scooter on a sidewalk, issued 182 citations for riding without a helmet and seven citations for riding a scooter with a passenger on board.

As to whether a similar ban could be carried out in District 1 (which includes La Jolla) City Council member Barbara Bry told La Jolla Light, “I support Councilmember Zapf’s efforts in prohibiting scooters on the boardwalks in her district, and I support a similar boardwalk prohibition in District One. Although the scooters provide a great service to both residents and tourists, we have to be cognizant of the potential safety impacts, especially on our busy beach boardwalks. The goal is that they serve the public interest, not impede it. ... Currently, my team is researching how other cities are dealing with them in terms of enforcement, appropriate regulations and fees.”

The dockless bike/scooter issue will go before the San Diego Budget and Government Efficiency Committee at a time to be determined, June 20 in the City Council Committee Room, 12th Floor, City Administration Building, 202 C St., downtown. For more details, call (619) 236-6687 or e-mail VCJoes@sandiego.gov

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