Opinion: With ‘vehicle’ classification, City could ticket scooter violations in La Jolla and San Diego


Opinion / Guest Commentary / Our Readers Write:

On any given day in La Jolla , I can walk one mile and see at least 50 or more motorized rental scooters strewn on the sidewalks, lawns and other City property. Yet, if I were to offer, say, boogie boards for rent while taking up City property and left them on the sidewalk night after night, I would be fined.

Ordinances restrict selling and renting goods from sidewalks and other City property. But does an ordinance exist to ban scooters from being left overnight on that same property? That depends upon your definition of “recreational vehicles.”

Years ago, the San Diego City Council adopted a Neighborhood Parking Protection Ordinance that restricts overnight parking of “oversized vehicles, non-motorized vehicles and recreational vehicles.” The ordinance is authorized by Sections 86.0139 through 86.0144 of the San Diego Municipal Code.

Recreational Vehicles are defined in the Vehicle Code as “any camp trailer, camper, trailer coach, or house car, or any boat, dune buggy, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or other motorized or towed vehicle designed, maintained or used primarily for recreational purposes.”

To me, that last line describes the rental scooters we are now seeing in our communities. Perhaps the City Attorney would opine that it does not. Or at the very least, advise that it is not the intent of the law.

If that is the case, and motorized scooters do not qualify as a “motorized vehicle designed, maintained or used primarily for recreational purposes,” the City Council can easily rectify that omission. All the Council need do is adopt very specific language adding the words “motorized scooter” to the definition of recreational vehicles.

As the result of acknowledging motorized scooters as motorized recreational vehicles council can then work to address scooter parking. Most of the motorized scooters are illegally parked.

Wikipedia defines a “vehicle” as a “machine that transports people or cargo.” By that definition, motorized scooters are vehicles.

As a vehicle, the City’s parking enforcement could be authorized to issue tickets to scooters. I’m certain it would be easy to affix the tickets to the abandoned scooters. Typically, the owner of the vehicle pays the fine.

And while we may all sympathize with environmentally-minded start-up companies such as Bird, perhaps we should rethink that because they are taking advantage of our support for alternate means of transportation.

Could it be that executives at Bird were counting on Council inaction to make inroads in San Diego? Perhaps they hoped to achieve what they have achieved; after all, the company name is Bird. The scooters look like flocks of birds spread around our town. I doubt the use of the name is coincidence.

However — and this applies to all scooter companies — taking advantage of loopholes in the law is just as bad as breaking the law. Scooters dumped all over our sidewalks is certainly not within the spirit of our existing laws.

To sum up, by adding “motorized scooters” to the recreational vehicle ordinance in plain English simplifies enforcement. This would have the immediate effect of forcing scooter rental companies to abide by local ordinance, clean up their mess, and fund docking stations at the direction of city planners. It might even spur a whole new and separate industry of docking and battery charging stations.

At the very least, I’m certain we can all agree that scooters are viable, but we need regulation. With many new modes of transportation upon us — and more technology on the horizon — our City ordinances must be updated to keep pace. To do otherwise means we are intentionally unprepared and well behind the curve in the world of technology.

If the City Council does not seek viable solutions then it will be clear that they have no intention of banning scooters from City property.

By their inaction it will then be clear that there is an environmental movement afoot in which Council intends scooters to be a growing means of alternate transportation regardless of the blight in our communities, the violation of law, or the threat to the safety of our residents.