Bry talks dockless vehicles with Budget & Government Efficiency Committee

With the goal of creating dockless-bike and electric-scooter regulations, City Council President Pro Tem and Budget & Government Efficiency Committee Chair Barbara Bry took the first step and hosted a committee discussion June 20 at City Hall.

The committee is comprised of Bry and Council colleagues Chris Ward, Chris Cate and Georgette Gomez.

At the meting, they: 1) heard a report about the benefits and challenges of vehicle-sharing; 2) learned what other cities in similar situations are doing; 3) discussed local issues; and 4) reviewed the regulations that could be implemented on behalf of public safety.

The outcome of the first meeting on the subject was to establish a working group that meets in conformance with the Brown Act to discuss possible fees, regulations and changes in City infrastructure to address dockless bikes and electric scooters, and to present a draft ordinance on the situation in the fall.

The dockless bikes and electric scooters have irked La Jollans and other beach-community residents since they rolled out across San Diego in mid-February.

The big picture

Bry’s policy advisory, Rayman Khan, was tasked with researching possible regulations and presented his findings.

“The purpose is to figure out a way that we, as a community and a City, can optimize the vehicle-sharing in San Diego by maximizing the benefits the vehicles provide and cutting down on some of the negative externalities,” he said.

Khan’s research found one approach many cities have used is to implement dockless vehicle permits, which would allow the City to collect appropriate fees that could be used for infrastructure or enforcement.

In Seattle, for example, there is a vehicle permit application fee of $1,800 and an associated per-bike (in a fleet) fee of $15. Other cities have tiered systems, varying application fees and higher or lower per-bike fees, based on their respective needs.

Khan said analysis would be required to determine which approach would be best for San Diego.

Additional policies could also be put in place, he said, to help the City achieve what has been identified as its key objectives: to manage public space, foster equity and accessibility, improve planning and enforcement, and protect users.

Policies the City can implement to manage public space include: establishing time restrictions on leaving bikes in undesired areas, such as public right-of-ways (before they are removed and the companies fined), and creating dockless bike parking areas.

“Just because they can be parked anywhere, doesn’t mean they should be,” Khan opined.

To address equity and accessibility, he said some cities have bike distribution requirements, so the companies have to spread the bikes out.

Others require integration with mass transit and offer flexible payments by way of a discount card that could be picked up at convenient stores.

San Diego could also establish data reporting standards to address planning and enforcement that would “allow the City to understand where trips are being originated and where people are moving throughout the City to understand where infrastructure as needed,” Khan said.

To protect users, placards with the rules and regulations could be posted on the bike baskets and other visible areas.

Voice of the people

Two of the eight speakers who offered public testimony were La Jolla Shores Business Association president Angie Preisendorfer and La Jolla Shores Association chair Janie Emerson.

“The recent influx of bikes in our area is staggering,” Preisendorfer said.

“These bikes are being left haphazardly around The Shores — sometimes damaged — and it takes days and days for the company to pick them up.

“A real collaboration needs to happen.”

Emerson added: “The key issue here is safety.

“This is huge problem in the beach area. I’m concerned that, like other things that have come before the City Council, a one-size-fits-all policy has been adopted when one size does not fit all.

“It’s not that we’re against these bikes, it’s that we are opposed to what they’re doing to the citizens of our community and the danger they pose.”

During committee deliberation, Council member Ward said there were some app capabilities the City could implement, such as an incentive-based system through which a user gets rewards for parking in designated areas (marked by geo-fields); and a screen on the app where the user must acknowledge that they’re not supposed to ride on the sidewalk and must wear a helmet each time the app is opened.

Gomez said above fees and regulations, improved infrastructure is her top priority. But Bry noted part of the reason to impose fees is to pay for infrastructure improvements.

Raising the equity issue, Gomez added: “Fees are often passed onto the users in one form or another. Sometimes they can be very costly, so the user ends up not using the vehicles ... we need to be mindful of these costs.”

What remains to be seen is whether the City’s preexisting agreement with Discover Bike (formerly DecoBike), which has docking stations throughout the City, precludes the Council from forming regulations to impose on other bike companies.

That information was requested, but not available at, the committee meeting.

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