Safe Walkways USA
For the Right of People to Walk in Safety

SUMMARY

  • Welcome.
  • Explaining our name.
  • What you can get from this website.
  • What, through our advocacy, we are fighting for.
  • What is wrong with the current regulations.
  • The future new system coming in Summer 2022.
  • Questions about the new system that need answers.
  • What you can do.

WELCOME TO SAFE WALKWAYS USA

We advocate for measures to restore safety for all people, including people in wheelchairs and the vision impaired, people of all ages and all aspects of life to have the freedom to use the walkways of our city.

Our primary goal is simple: get motorized vehicles, particularly rented motorized scooters, off our walkways.

Why "Safe Walkways" And Not "Safe Sidewalks"?

The answer is that people walk in many more places than sidewalks including:

  • promenades,
  • plazas,
  • paths,
  • trails,
  • alleys, and,
  • boardwalks,

to name just a few and all of which we have here in San Diego. We think "Safe Walkways" covers more ground and believe it or not, though rental scooters create problems on sidewalks they also create them in all those other places too.

What You Can Get From This Website

  • Tools and resources that you can use as an advocate for pedestrian safety:
    • to report scooter parking violations
    • to explain the safety problems created by rental scooter companies and their users.
      • Parking and staging create obstacles and hazards for pedestrians, especially the disabled and result in injuries.
      • Driving on sidewalks injures and traumatizes pedestrians driving them off places they used to think were safe for walking.
    • to debunk myths used to justify the scooter rental industry:
      • The rental scooter industry decreases carbon emissions.
        • False, it increases them.
      • Rental scooters are a cost-effective solution to the First Mile - Last Mile transportation problem.
        • False, private ownership is cheaper and less risky.
      • Rental scooters are safe and just as safe as bicycles and cars.
        • False, the design of kick scooters is inherently unstable and much more so than a bicycle, the injury rate for travel by scooter is nearly 400 times that for travel by car and serious injuries associated with travel by scooter are far higher than those associated with cycling.
      • Rental scooter companies place safety as their top priority.
        • False, they actively work to have safety regulations removed or watered down.
      • Rental scooter companies are responsible members of the local community.
        • False, they enter markets without warning and disregard local regulations, including those designed to protect property.
      • Rental scooter users have a drivers license and obey traffic laws.
        • False, they often disregard the rules of the road, leave scooters on or blocking access to private property, the rental companies do not prevent children from accessing and driving them and under 18s do not wear a helmet.
      • If involved in a collision rental scooter users have third-party liability insurance coverage provided by existing policies and can easily be identified.
        • False, their regular auto and home insurance does not cover third parties injured by a driver of a rental scooter, the rental company will not provide information about a hit and run renter and scooters carry no easily read unique identification.
  • Information about:
    • the role San Diego played in the development of the scooter rental industry,
    • the ongoing failure of the City of San Diego to protect pedestrian safety effectively,
    • what it could cost for it to do so,
    • who members of Safe Walkways are and why we set it up.

Our Fight For SAFE Walkways

In February 2018 motorized scooters for rent appeared in San Diego with neither warning nor explanation yet in violation of the City's Municipal Code on encroachment [§129.0702 (a) (2)], the California Vehicle Code [§22500 (f)] and the prohibition of the use of a sidewalk as a place from which to run a business without a permit.

While other cities adopted sensible approaches towards the invasion of motorized scooters we witnessed our City do nothing about not only their arrival but also:

  • the horrific number of accidents that were happening daily,
  • the number of drunks on scooters,
  • the inability of police to identify drivers of unidentified scooters,
  • the horrendous cost solving these problems imposes on taxpayers.

When the City ignored repeated pleas to enforce its regulations to protect the safety of pedestrains and as affected citizens became aware of each other, Safe Walkways was established in June of 2018 as a Facebook group. Later a similar group was established on social media site Nextdoor. Today the combined membership of the groups is around 600 and growing. Use the icons at the bottom of each page to join us.

Our fight for SAFE walkways is a fight to:

  • change the Municipal Code to get scooter rental operations in the street not on sidewalks.
  • prevent scooters being left on sidewalks
  • get the companies to immediately remove scooters left on sidewalks, and,
  • impound those they don't
  •  use enforcement about how scooters must be driven:
    • scooters must not be driven on  sidewalks.
    • under 18s must wear a helmet.
  • get the City to enforce State law:
    • by requiring the companies to:
      • geofence all streets where driving a motorized scooter is illegal.
      • check the renter's drivers license against their appearance.
      • keep children off motorized scooters.
      • eliminate dual riders.
      • follow ADA State and Federal and regulations.
      • prevent scooters from lying on their side and pick them up
  • to help:
    • the mobility impaired who are unable to get where they need to go
    • the blind who fall over scooters and are severely injured
    • pedestrians who are knocked over and injured
    • the ordinary people who are now afraid to go for a walk.

Although the section below about "The Future" indicates that the City of San Diego is proposing to change the basis under which scooter rental companies operate, that is something that does not apply right now. It has already been delayed by six months and may be delayed further and we continue to deal with the situation that is currently in force. Therefore we explain the problems of the current regulations.

What Is Wrong With The Current Regulations?

The current regulations, which came into effect in June 2019 are problematic because:

THEY CREATE CONFUSION:

  • They create two systems for parking of scooters, § 83.0310 (a) (2) and (3), depending where you are:
    • Downtown scooters may only be parked and staged in city-designated corrals in the street - they may not be parked or staged on sidewalks downtown.
    • Elsewhere scooters must be staged in city-designated corrals, but, if there is no corral, then they may be staged on the sidewalk in groups of up to four, each group at least forty feet apart.
    • It's a system seemingly designed to create confusion, be self-defeating and be unenforceable. One has to ask how any tourist in San Diego who uses a scooter in Pacific Beach say, where it's staged on the sidewalk and may be parked on the sidewalk, is supposed to know that when they visit downtown they are not allowed to do that.
    • The next problem stems from that dual system.

THEY ENCOURAGE SIDEWALK DRIVING:

  • For most of the City of San Diego, the regulations legitimize parking scooters on sidewalks, but:
  • When scooters are staged on sidewalks, users then inevitably drive them on sidewalks - they do not activate them and then wheel them into the street, and,
  • When users see scooters staged on sidewalks, the naturally assume they may park them there.

THEY LACK PROVISIONS FOR MONITORING:

  • The City almost entirely relies on reports submitted to it by citizens and those only relate to parking issues. It hands those off to the companies essentially assuming that they can "self manage" the problems they create.
  • Similarly nothing is done to determine that the claims the companies make about their benefits in fighting climate change or as a safe alternative to car travel are true.
    • The regulations also do not require that the companies provide any evidence that they are reducing carbon emissions - our analysis and that of others indicates that the rental industry actually increases them.
    • Likewise they do not require the companies to provide information or evidence of their safety. The City has a Vision Zero goal of reducing deaths on the roads to zero. Since their arrival rental scooters have been associated with a number of deaths and thus the industry undermines achievement of the Vision Zero goal.

THEY LACK PROVISIONS FOR ENFORCEMENT:

  • The City gives the companies three hours to deal with a parking violation IF the City reports it to the company.
    • Note this is not from the time the violation occurs but from the time the City reports it to the rental company. These reports are simply the reports submitted by citizens who see a parking problem. Yet the rental companies are given information about which of their vehicles are in violation as every time a user ends the ride they send a photo of the vehicle to the company.
    • After three hours the City may impound the scooter, but the City only employs a service to do that impounding for a few hours a day and does barely none. In December 2021, two scooters were impounded.

THEY FAIL TO ENFORCE STATE LAW:

  • Although the regulations require the companies to slow their vehicles on a few walkways they do not require the rental companies to apply the same technology to prevent motorized scooters being driven on streets where doing so is illegal, (i.e. all streets faster than 25mph and without a class 2 or 4 bike lane).
  • State law prohibits dual driving, underage driving and driving without a license, yet the City's regulations do nothing to require the companies to ensure those prohibitions are effected and the SDPD issues virtually no citations for such moving violations.
  • The City  Parking Enforcement officers are not enabled to issue parking tickets to the rental companies when say a fallen scooter is blocking a dropped curb at a crossing, thus barring someone in a wheelchair.
  • Unlike other cities San Diego does not require the companies to pass on to the users any fines it imposes on them for say blocking a disabled parking space or drop ramp at a crossing.
  • The regulations do not require labels against dual riding nor that the scooters display a unique identifier that is easily read at a distance.

Our paper stating the problems the industry creates and solutions for them were provided to the City in 2021.

The Future: Contracts To Provide Shared Mobility Device Services

The Request For Proposals

In November 2021, with a new Mayor and members of Council in office, the City announced it was taking a different approach. It issued a Request For Proposals, (RFP), seeking companies to provide Shared Mobility Device, (SMD), services city-wide under contracts. A SMD can be a motorized scooter or bike, an e-bike or a number of other device types, available in the public domain to rent by the public using an app.

The RFP contracts will be for three years initially, extendable for a further two years, and limit the number of operators to a maximum of four and the total number of devices to a maximum of 8,000, down from the current 14,500 under the permit scheme.

The End of Dockless

Significantly it also prohibits the staging and parking of motorized scooters on sidewalks anywhere in the city and requires the companies to ensure that driving them on sidewalks is also prevented. These represent potentially significant improvements as they reflect the achievement of our goal to get scooters off sidewalks.

Questions About The City's New Approach Need Answers: Our Action Requests

However, the RFP does not explain how proposals will be evaluated, what monitoring there will be, if any, for compliance with the RFP and Municipal Code and what enforcement, if any, will be applied if a contractor is out of compliance.

Regulations to protect the safety of pedestrians are meaningless if there is no monitoring or enforcement as then they can be ignored with impunity.

That is why we developed our Action Requests. These set out the actions we the Council to take to help ensure that the pedestrian safety issues created by the industry and its users are addressed effectively and the trust of the public in the City, which had been badly eroded over the prior four years, is restored.

As our Action Requests document makes clear, if the City does not address the three areas of Evaluation, Monitoring and Enforcement the RFP is unlikely to deal with the public safety issues; there are indications already that, rather than putting in place measures to monitor and enforce, instead the City intends to allow the rental companies to continue to "self-manage" the pedestrian safety issues they create.

The new contract system, which replaces permitting, is not expected to start until at least the beginning of August 2022.

This gives members of the public time to exert pressure on the City to address questions about Evaluation, Monitoring and Enforcement to help avoid the new system having nothing in place in terms of either monitoring or enforcement, which would make the new requirements meaningless.

What You Can Do

In this website we explain our advocacy, the new proposals and our concerns about them.

If you live in San Diego see our Action page for details on what you can do:

  • reporting violations,
  • talking to friends, neighbors, businesses, etc. and
  • writing to influential people and organizations.

If you use rented motorized scooters this website has information that you need to be aware of.

Please use the Contact Us box to tell us about how you have been affected by the scooter rental industry either in San Diego or elsewhere.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP IN RESTORING SAFETY TO THE WALKWAYS OF SAN DIEGO AND BEYOND.