San Jose mayor asks for more scooter safety reg­u­la­tions

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Emily DeRuy [email protected]­yare­anews­group.com

Fed up with scoot­ers crowd­ing San Jose side­walks, Mayor Sam Lic­cardo is is­su­ing a some­what un­usual ul­ti­ma­tum to the star­tups re­spon­si­ble for the del­uge of scoot­ers in the city: In­no­vate or get out.

In a memo re­leased Thurs­day, the mayor and coun­cil mem­bers Dev Davis and Raul Peralez said scooter com­pa­nies should use some­thing like geofencing — a vir­tual perime­ter of sorts that notes when riders en­ter or exit cer­tain bound­aries — to pre­vent riders from zoom­ing down side­walks and park­ing un­safely.

When some­one pushes a shop­ping cart too far from a gro­cery store, it locks. Star­tups such as Bird and Lime, the mayor told re­porters at City Hall on Thurs­day, should build scoot­ers that can

sim­i­larly de­tect the dif­fer­ence be­tween a street and a side­walk and then stop when they’re not where they’re sup­posed to be.

“The tech­nol­ogy is cer­tainly avail­able,” Lic­cardo said. “The ques­tion is how it can be im­ple­mented, and based on our con­ver­sa­tions with scooter com­pa­nies, we be­lieve now is the time to im­ple­ment it.”

The city, he said, would al­low the com­pa­nies to in­stall sen­sors on pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture, like poles.

“It ’ ll be too ex­pen­sive,” said Kevin Larkin, who was un­lock­ing a Bird scooter down­town on Thurs­day af­ter­noon, shak­ing his head.

Some other cities have been over­run with scoot­ers, Larkin said, but the num­ber in San Jose — about 2,000 by the city’s count — seems man­age­able.

The coun­cil mem­bers in­sist they’re not try­ing to boot scoot­ers al­to­gether. On Wed­nes­day, Lic­cardo and Davis rode scoot­ers to lunch.

“E-scoot­ers are a great so- lu­tion for that last mile con­nec­tion in an ur­ban set­ting,” Davis said in a state­ment. “We just want to make sure that last mile is safely trav­eled and peo­ple get to their desti­na­tion without col­li­sion or con­tu­sions.”

“We’re not par­tic­u­lar about what or how” the new tech­nol­ogy is im­ple­mented, Lic­cardo said. “We just know this is a needed in­no­va­tion if we’re go­ing to be able to pro­tect pedes­tri­ans who have a rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tion that they’ll be safe walk­ing on a side­walk without be­ing run over.”

But while the idea might be fea­si­ble, it’s not com­mon. San Jose would be the first city to re­quire such tech­nol­ogy, and no scooter com­pa­nies em­ploy it to­day.

None of the three star­tups that have scoot­ers in San Jose right now — Bird, Lime and Wind — re­sponded im­me­di­ately to re­quests for com­ment about the pro­posal, which is ex­pected to be heard at the City Coun­cil meet­ing on Dec. 18, along with other pos­si­ble reg­u­la­tions.

While other cities such as Seat­tle have banned scoot­ers, Lic­cardo said he’d pre­fer to col­lab­o­rate. But he’s will­ing to get rid of the zippy things if they don’t fall in line.

“If there is not sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in safety of e- scoot­ers, ul­ti­mately bans are com­ing,” Lic­cardo said. “There are se­ri­ous in­juries hap­pen­ing out there.”

There’s no good count on ex­actly how many in­juries are linked to the scoot­ers. Be­tween Jan­uary and Septem­ber of this year, Val­ley Med­i­cal Cen­ter saw less than 10 ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing scoot­ers. But a doc­tor at San Fran­cisco’s Zucker­berg Gen­eral Hospi­tal told The New York Times this sum­mer she was see­ing five to 10 in­juries a week, and at least two peo­ple in the U. S. have died rid­ing scoot­ers.

And while Lic­cardo ac­knowl­edges the cost of us­ing such tech­nol­ogy may get passed along to riders or de­ter some com­pa­nies from op­er­at­ing in San Jose, that’s a price he’s will­ing to pay.

“I’ve rid­den on e- scoot­ers be­fore,” Lic­cardo said. “They’re fun, they’re cheap, they’re great, but I think we’d all pre­fer to be rid­ing in a safe car than sim­ply rid­ing in a cheap car.”

NHAT V. MEYER — STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

A man rides a rental scooter in down­town San Jose on Thurs­day.

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