City Council Is Willing to Test Dockless Electric Bikes, But Still Says ‘No’ to Scooters

A Jump dockless electric bike

A divided West Hollywood City Council voted Monday night to implement an 18-month test of dockless electric bikes to replace the money-losing WeHo Pedals program that launched in August 2016. It also rejected a recommendation by the city’s Transportation Commission to include dockless electric scooters in the test.

Unlike similar dockless electric bike programs adopted by other cities, the one authorized by the City Council includes restrictions to make it harder for a person completing a ride to simply walk away from the bike. The rider would have to return the bike to a docking station, lock it to a bike rack or leave it on private property with the approval of the property owner.

The City Council also asked city staffers to prepare a proposal for a future meeting that would ban the riding of electric bikes on city sidewalks and that would allow the city to subsidize the purchase of bicycles by its residents.

To take a ride on a dockless bike, a user has to create an account through the provider’s app. The rider then can locate a bike or scooter, ride it, and then pay for the ride when it’s over. To unlock the device, a user typically has to enter a pin number or scan a QR code on the bike. Users are prompted by the app to park the bike out of the pedestrian right-of-way within a zone shown in the app.

The dockless electric bike system would be operated by a private company at no cost to the city. The current WeHo Pedals program is operated by CycleHop and is subsidized by the city.  A January 2018 report from City Hall said that over 12 months WeHo Pedals had cost the city $344,750 and generated revenue of only $133,771. That revenue shortfall was what prompted Council members John D’Amico and Lauren Meister to propose ending the WeHo Pedals program and testing the privately operated bike share concept.  The city’s contract with CycleHop expires in August.

The 18-month electric bike test was opposed by Meister and Councilmember John Duran for very different reasons. 

“I think this legislation is premature,” Meister said, citing the lack of sufficient designated bike lanes in the city. “We need to have infrastructure in place before we do anything … “

Meister noted that cyclists currently are allowed to ride on sidewalks in areas where there are  no bike lanes on the street, which she said was a problem for pedestrians that would be worse with the presence of electric bikes, which presumably would move faster. “Until we have our infrastructure in place, I can’t support this.”

Duran supported the electric bicycle test but said he also wanted the city to add dockless electric scooters to the test program. He also argued that requiring the riders of so-called dockless bikes to find a place to lock them up, possibly not close to their destination, ignored the first and last mile issues that such programs were intended to resolve. The first mile/last mile issue is seen as a problem that keeps people from using environmentally efficient mass transit rather than their own cars, which they can park at their final destinations.

Councilmember John Heilman said he wasn’t concerned about the first mile/last mile issue. “If you have to walk a couple of blocks to get a bike, what’s wrong with walking a couple of blocks to leave a bike?” he asked.

Heilman also spoke out against testing the dockless electric scooters, citing problems they were said to have caused before the city banned them. That ban doesn’t prevent users from riding the scooters into the city after renting them outside the city limits, but they cannot rent them while in West Hollywood.  It is still legal for residents to ride scooters that they own themselves.

Councilmember Lindsey Horvath said she was willing to see what recommendations city staffers might bring forward regarding electric scooters but wasn’t willing to support adding them to the test program.

Genevieve Morrill, CEO of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, recommended that the Council include electric scooters in the test program. Morrill acknowledged the problems with the launch of electric scooters last year that led the city to ban them.  “Are scooters being left in the middle of the road or toppled over in your garden a hassle?”  she asked.  “Yes… But are we going to stop progress on a new industry that is not only  here to stay but actually represents the solution, or at least a big part of a larger solution for mobility in Los Angeles and getting cars off the road.”

Morrill noted that it will take time for the new electric scooter industry to solve its problems.  “It always takes time for change,” she said. “But what is the message that we send to the world as the most progressive city that is closed to progression? To new economies, new industries, and pesky annoying new business models? It takes time. We are so far behind as the creative city – maybe instead of saying ‘no’ we step up and say ‘yes’.”

Manny Rodriguez, a West Hollywood resident who has spoken out against electric scooters, was one of the residents who opposed the bike program and the inclusion of electric scooters, saying he was baffled that the Council would even consider authorizing what he called “mini motorcycles.”

Representatives of Lime and Bird, both electric scooter companies that now also are in the electric bike business, spoke up in support of the proposed test, as did Sean Landholt, operations manager for Jump, a dockless electric bike company that is owned by Uber and has been approved for operation in Santa  Monica and Los Angeles.


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Jerome Cleary
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Jerome Cleary

there are still people illegally riding on the sidewalks on skateboards, bikes and scooters and STILL no citations or stopping these people at all??? WTF?

TheRealZam
Guest

So the city is supporting a ride sharing vehicle that can easily reach 20mph and hit 30+ with a skilled rider instead of one limited to 15mph (or less), weighs 1/5 as much, and takes <25% the space while ridden. When parked, they easily have a footprint which is 10% that of a bike and could be less than 1sq ft if folded and placed on cheap ‘mounting hooks’. The real problem here is technopobia. Yes many do not use these things properly, but the degree of safe use has increased dramatically over the short period during which they have… Read more »

Smart City Resident
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Smart City Resident

Frivolous waste of money renting these things. Go to Target and buy a bicycle people!!!

Randy
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Randy

Sometimes you need a one-way trip somewhere. For example, you might go to happy hour, and Uber home later. Or you might take it to a bus stop, and not be coming back to the city until late in the evening, or to a different stop. I say this as a bike owner, who lives here. Also, you might not live in the neighborhood. You might just need a one-way trip somewhere, while you’re visiting the city for the weekend.

Prestige Meat
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Prestige Meat

the “creative city”, which is run by geriatric 30 plus year veterans of politics can’t believe that their exhausted bicycle scheme FLOPPED like a dead fish on 90 degree pavement!

David
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David

I have been riding the Jump bikes in west la and Santa monica for months. The only successful e bike that is going to work in weho is the Jump bikes. It’s the only one that has a very competent bicycle and a large network that will allow residents to rent one and ride through beverly hills to the beach or into west la. You can even get very close to LAX on Jump! Maybe further as the network expands. This will get people out of cars. Plus Jump bikes are a ton of fun to ride, very easy for… Read more »

Prestige Meat
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Prestige Meat

the “creative city” is butthurt that their not creative at all. just a bunch of 30 year oligarchs.

Josh Kurpies
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Josh Kurpies

David, I agree. I love the Jump e-bikes.

Michael G
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Michael G

This is just more tree hugging junk. What we could call “pay for p,ay.” This isn’t Amsterdam. With wide roads and bicyclists welcome.

This is West Hollywood. Where drivers don’t like bike riders. And if you’re riding a bike, you’re putting your life in the hands of some “texting tweeter speeding” aggressive Range Rover operator.

What is even more ludicrous is looking at the five city council members, whose average age is close to 50, and imagining them riding a bicycles.

Jim Nasium
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Jim Nasium

I guess you haven’t seen the members of the bike coalition?

Randy
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Randy

“This is West Hollywood. Where drivers don’t like bike riders.” So, basically, you are saying that we should throw in the towel and give up on this idea, because the “car is king?” You can’t change the world, without trying. I’ve been to Amsterdam. We could be like that city, a tiny bit, if we tried. I recognize that that is an entirely different landscape, and infrastructure. That city has narrow roads, small cars, canals, and not many major thoroughfares. But both cars and bicyclists should be welcome, even in West Hollywood. I agree with your sentiment about the Councilmembers… Read more »

Randy
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Randy

I agree with Alan 100%. They are bicycles, people. The sky isn’t falling. We’ve had bicycles on the road since before cars. We had a failed bike share program because it required special dock locations, the bikes were big, clunky and heavy, difficult for someone who’s even in great shape to ride up some of our hills. It also isn’t cost-effective, unless you have a subscription. Duran was correct, in that people should be able to leave these anywhere. That is probably the main reason the bicycle program failed. I live 2.5 blocks off SMB. I’m not going to walk… Read more »

Josh Kurpies
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Josh Kurpies

Thank you Randy and Alan for bringing some sanity to the insane discussion I listened to Monday night. Randy, I couldn’t agree with you more on so many of your points, from the reasons why WeHo Pedals failed (it was like banging my head against a wall trying to explain the first/last mile theory to the City and how parking all the bikes along the bus route didn’t achieve this: If I am riding to the bus, but must first walk to the bus stop to pick up a bike, why do I need the bike?!? If I get off… Read more »

Randy
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Randy

Josh, thank you. Also, I meant to say “cost not much less than an Uber pool.” One more thing. I believe another reason the bicycle share program failed was because of the scooters, which launched about 18 months after. I believe that some Council members implemented the scooter ban, partially because it made the city look foolish, when someone came along with a better idea. I’d love to see some numbers that show ridership in the bicycle share program when the scooters were temporarily available. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went down. What some members of the Council fail… Read more »

Josh Kurpies
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Josh Kurpies

Yes, it was when the scooters arrived that I stopped stressing over trying to get the City to act. (I still think the city should stop wasting time and place single public bike racks throughout the city’s neighborhoods…especially since it sounds like they are heading into a not-so-dock-less e-bike pilot) . City of Santa Monica has seen a significant decrease in their bikeshare system usage since the scooters and, more recently, e-bikes. (City of Santa Monica has taken the hit in stride though, understanding the goal is not to profit from bikeshare, but to reduce reliance on cars….they even required… Read more »

Alan Strasburg
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Alan Strasburg

Once again, great comments about anecdotal experiences with the annoying people who use these various devices, but the reality is that they are part of a good regional solution to reducing car traffic and the attendant gridlock and pollution. Like most technology advances, used properly they are a very good thing. Similar to cell phones and texting while driving, it’s the idiots who still do it that create the problems.

One day some punk is going to mow down an elderly lady who will break her hip and die. It would not the scooter’s fault.

Awesome Weho
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Awesome Weho

It seems like 99% of scooter riders are straight white dudes out joyriding. They only add to traffic with no easing of congestion.

People will use motorized bikes for their intended purpose: getting from point A to point B. We’re not a commuter town with the same “first mile/last mile” needs other cities have, but if someone can take a bike instead of their car for short trips, maybe they’ll try this.

Motorized bikes should follow the same laws as regular bikes. What’s the problem?

WehoGabe
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WehoGabe

Really? Half of Malibu burns down due to climate change, and we’re still restricting technology that reduces greenhouse gasses, reduces car use, and reduces traffic? Why do we keep electing these idiots?

Tell The Truth
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Tell The Truth

Sorry “WehoGabe” you’re naive or just pushing the false industry talking points. The manufacturing, energy used for charging batteries, the vehicles on the road used to pick up and drop off these devices and the disposal of metal and batteries from the short lifespan of these personal recreational scooters and bikes are a detriment to the environment. The damage to the human body, at tremendous higher rates per trips than cars, is also a consequence that could be avoided if it weren’t for the industry pitch that you are advocating. There are already more cars on the road because of… Read more »

Nir Zilberman
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Nir Zilberman

Living in Tel Aviv, it’s a nightmare with those electric bikes and scooters. Every day we have accidents. It’s so danger to the drivers and those who walk on the sidewalks and drive on our streets. Last month alone we lost few amazing people . Knowing WEHO, it’s going to be a nightmare!!!!!

carleton croninc
Guest

West Hollywood, no different than all other cities experimenting with the use of such personal use vehicles, must face up to the fact that current street design and current vehicle regulations really do not make them acceptable. Pedestrians and bikes and scooters will be dodging each other until a reasonable approach is enacted.