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Electric vehicles in La Jolla staged against city rules trigger complaints

Electric bikes and scooters are stationed outside the Wall Street post office in La Jolla in violation of city staging rules.
Electric bikes and scooters are pictured stationed outside the Wall Street post office in La Jolla in violation of city staging rules for shared mobility devices.
(Courtesy)

After temporarily ceasing operations in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, several scooter and electric bicycle companies are re-rolling out their vehicles in La Jolla.

One of them, Wheels, has been the subject of some complaints over the volume of electric bikes outside the La Jolla post office at 1140 Wall St. Multiple readers sent photos to the La Jolla Light of a long line of bikes, and some scooters, stationed in violation of city guidelines. The photos do not document the vehicles being staged but show them in a formation that is against the city’s rules.

Chiefly, the “four-by-40” rule says vehicles must be staged 40 feet apart in groups of no more than four.

One reader said electric bikes are “repeatedly” and “shamelessly” staged “in public sidewalk areas and handicap-accessible ramps” and provided photos taken July 23 and 27. One photo showed bikes in the transition portion of the sidewalk that has a textured yellow ramp for Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility.

Another reader who sent similar photos at the same location complained that the staging was an “ugly sight, overkill in numbers and blocking public sidewalks.”

A city representative said the company would be notified of the situation.

A regulatory document the city gave to scooter- and bike-share companies (also known as shared mobility devices) dated in December outlines where and how such vehicles can be staged.

The guidelines note that prohibited locations include “in front of or upon that portion of a curb that has been cut down, lowered or constructed to provide wheelchair accessibility to the sidewalk.”

One part of the document depicts several vehicles lined up in a row — similar to the scene at the La Jolla post office — under what is not allowed.

Under current regulations, shared mobility devices can be parked on sidewalks in accord with the four-by-40 rule and with certain other restrictions. For example, they cannot be staged within 15 feet of the driveway of a fire station or within 500 feet of a school.

They may be placed in corrals painted on the street in groups of more than four.

According to its website, Wheels relaunched in San Diego in June with new features.

“To further our Ride Safe mission, we are making two important hardware changes as part of our relaunch,” a blog post reads. “First, we are rolling out the industry’s first-ever self-sanitizing handlebars and brake levers so that our riders only touch clean surfaces. Second, we are starting to add baskets to the front of our devices so that riders will be able to use Wheels, rather than a car, to shop, pick up essential items or do errands, and to do so without having to carry those items while riding.‍”

Wheels did not immediately respond to the Light‘s request for comment.

Should residents see a violation, they are encouraged to report it via the city’s Get It Done app. Once the city receives the report, it is forwarded to the company that operates the vehicle. From there, the company has three hours to move the device or face impounding.

If the company wants the vehicle back, it will have to pay $65, plus $1 for every day it’s in the city impound yard, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. City officials said 3,733 scooters were impounded between July 1 and Sept. 15, 2019, generating more than $212,000 in payments.

Wheels is one of four authorized shared mobility device brands in San Diego. The others are Bird scooters, Lyft scooters and Spin scooters. The permit for those companies expires July 31. New permitting will be done in August, and the same ones could be renewed. ◆