Wheels Rider Keels Over to Avoid a Car on Santa Monica Boulevard

wheels, electric scooter, electric bike
Bystanders assist woman who fell off her Wheels vehicle on Santa Monica Boulevard. (Photo by Eric Jon Schmidt)

Local residents were alarmed this afternoon to see a woman riding a Wheels electric bike who appeared to have been hit by a car on Santa Monica Boulevard.

However, the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department has confirmed that she actually fell off the bike while crossing lanes on Santa Monica in front of the soon-to-open Sprouts store and then moving quickly to avoid being hit by a car.

The woman, who is said to be okay and whose identity has not been revealed, was riding the latest brand of electric vehicle to be found on the streets and sidewalks of West Hollywood.

The Wheels electric bike in some ways is more of a competitor with the Byrd and Lime electric scooters than it is with the Jump electric bike. That’s because the Wheels pedals don’t actually move, they just give you a place to rest your feet while sitting on the seat and having the engine spin the wheels forward. Jump requires at least a modest bit of pedaling.

While you can ride your bicycle on the sidewalk if there isn’t an adjacent bike lane, it’s not legal to ride a Wheels vehicle or an electric scooter or bike on the sidewalk in West Hollywood. The City Council took a final vote to enact the ban on electric bikes on sidewalks at its meeting last Monday.

Wheels, which is headquartered in West Hollywood, was co-founded by Jonathan and Joshua Viner, brothers who founded the popular dog-walking app Wag. Their electric “bikes” join electric scooters as “last mile” vehicles in a city and region dominated by automobiles. West Hollywood in June 2018 enacted a ban on electric scooters, which one cannot rent from a sidewalk within the city limits. However, like electric bikes, they can be easily rented on sidewalks on Melrose Avenue and La Brea Avenue on the city’s boundaries and ridden into West Hollywood.

Woman injured on Santa Monica Boulevard after falling over her Wheels electric vehicle (photo by Eric Jon Schmidt)

Eric Jon Schmidt told WEHOville that he observed the woman riding the Wheels vehicle in the middle of car lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard all the way from the Target store on the city’s Eastside. “She was right in the middle of car lanes and weaving between cars,” he said. … She didn’t have a helmet on.”

The incident is likely to add some heat to the debate in West Hollywood about what to do about so-called “last-mile” vehicles.Some residents want to findways to ban them entirely. Others want to find ways to accommodate them safely.

The city has banned the renting of dockless electric scooters in West Hollywood, although they can be rented just outside the city limits in places like Melrose Avenue and ridden into the city. The City Council in March approved an 18-month pilot project that will allow a limited number of dockless bikes to operate in West Hollywood. The city has issued a request for proposal from dockless bike companies. That project replaces the WeHo Pedals program, which involved bicycles docked at particular sidewalk stations that could be rented using a mobile phone app.

  1. I’ve said more than once that the city could make a fortune just by having two officers sit in front of City Hall and Joey’s and ticket each person riding one of these idiot things on the sidewalk..

    1. Indeed. Or in front of the Starbucks/24 Hour Fitness area.

      Not to mention people texting and driving, jaywalkers, people riding on the sidewalk w/a non-motorized bike where there is a bike lane, and posted signs.

      So, why don’t they? Enforcement is the issue here, not lawmaking.

  2. I’d really like the city to do more to accommodate these vehicles, it’s unlikely they’re going away.

    It’s unfortunate that the incident happened at the location it did. As a long term resident of the area, the city did quite a bit of work to redesign that section of traffic, and I have to say they did a commendable job. The street now has a much better method of managing foot and vehicle traffic, and I can get to Trader Joe’s and back without risking life or limb.

  3. The sheriff dept really needs to ticket every rider they see riding that is breaking the law. Starting with riding on the sidewalk and running stop signs. Also, they are not allowed on any street with a speed limit of over 25mph unless in a bike lane. So they are not allowed on SM Blvd, La Cienega, La Brea or Melrose except where there is a bike lane. Imagine how much money the city would make by just enforcing the law

    California Electric Scooter Law Summary
    Electric Scooters have become popular to those who want a cheap ride, paid for through a phone app. The West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station personnel caution those riders to follow the California laws regarding the use of these vehicles.

    * A driver’s license or learners permit is required to drive an electric scooter.

    * Drive shall not operate a motorized scooter in excess of 15 mph.

    * Driver shall not operate on a public road with a speed limit of 25 mph or more, unless it is operated in a bike lane.

    * Driver to operate on right side of the roadway and next to the curb when feasible. When intending to move left at an intersection, they must walk their scooter in a crosswalk when crossing a roadway.

    * Driver must operate in a designated bike lane when one is available.

    * Driver must never ride on any sidewalk except to leave or enter the adjacent property.

    * Driver shall not leave scooter on path or sidewalk.

    * Driver shall not hitch scooter onto another vehicle in motion.

    * Driver shall not have passengers.

    * Driver can be on bike path or trail unless prohibited by local ordinance.

    * Driver must have at least one hand on handlebars.

    * Handlebars must not exceed shoulders of the rider.

    1. Refer to my comment below: I think the Sheriff’s Department thinks they have better things to do with their time, and the City Council bows down to them.

  4. We’re creating a safe place for all these cute tech-bro “last-mile” devices (a total sham!) but forgetting about the basic safety of the most environmentally friendly of all modes of transportation–WALKING!!! Pedestrians are an after-thought in West Hollywood. Clearly there are no pedestrian lobbies donating to the political fortunes of the WeHo Student Council.

    1. There are few cognizant, realistic thinkers within the city hall environment dedicated to these issues, in my opinion. Having recently read a transcript of Rex Tillerson’s voluntary testimony before the Foreign Relations committee, I understood what he was attempting to accomplish in reorganizing the State Department. It brought to mind parallels of what I have observed within the Planning/Code Compliance and Public Safety Divisions. It appears that the multiple last mile devices were never considered as a task oriented proposition that required organization, understanding and establishment of precautions so the public would not be dealing with a progressively unsafe cans of worms. The ineptitude is mind boggling but solvable.

    2. I agree, Alan. As a female in my 50s who walks along Santa Monica Blvd several times per day, the bigger problem is the increasingly aggressive homeless people on the street. I wasn’t being vigilant as I walked down the street yesterday and two men (separate occasions) came within inches of me. One screamed something deranged in my ear. The other tried to corner me against a building, demanding money.

    3. What “safe space” have we created? Scooters are, and always have been, illegal to ride on the sidewalk. Before and after the ban. The Council just banned electric bikes. Non-electric bicycles are illegal where there are bike lanes, and posted signs. It has been that way for years.

      I’ve said this a dozen times: Want change? Ask the Sheriff’s Department to ENFORCE THE LAW. Pedestrians are an after-thought by our Sheriff’s Department, not by the lawmakers.

      I think they think they have better things to do with their time. And I think our local government bows down to them. They have over this issue. The Ed Buck situation. The 939 Palm situation. I don’t know why. Maybe they are afraid of them? Maybe they know that we’ve contracted with them and have no other option other than to build our own police department (which will take an enormous amount of work and time).

      As far as this lady’s accident goes, it appears as though she was being reckless, but I will never pass judgment on a traffic accident of any kind, unless I was actually a witness. But assuming she was being reckless, she was riding in the street, which is a legal thing to do, and the only place these are allowed. If this was her fault, that is her responsibility, and has nothing to do with us “creating a safe space for tech-bro ‘last mile’ devices.”

      We can bitch about alternative methods of transportation all we want, but the fact is, they aren’t going away. Like anything (including cars, and walking), there will be people who are careless.

    4. I think Weho has done a fairly good job managing pedestrian traffic, and there is probably more pedestrian traffic in Weho than in many larger cities, especially at both ends of the city. I agree in concept that there should be more crosswalks, and maybe even traffic signals to control pedestrian vis a vis car traffic, but the city is usually quite amenable to specific concerns. There’s nothing they can do about general griping, but if you have a specific complaint or suggestion, I strongly encourage you to bring it to the Transportation Commission or city council meeting.

  5. Ban all of these so called electronic motorized vehicles. As a pedestrian I have been almost hit and I had to jump into the street on Santa Monica blvd and Fairfax and crescent heights and la cienega and sprained my feet because of these lack of insured and motorized users who are careless and don’t want to care for the public at large and their saftey. Ban them and fine the users 200-500.00 per infraction to discourage ridership! I agree with Robert they are a Menace on our SIDEWALKS—optimal word being WALK, and our streets cutting through cars which they don’t stop st crosswalks, again jeopardizing safety of pedestrians! We as pedestrians must be shamed into walking and waiting on sidewalks, we are exactly doing what they are meant for! Furthermore, not a coincidence these companies’ headquarters are in West Hollywood but they never advertise their whereabouts on accountability. Stop using the environment of WEHO and it’s people and jeaporize safety of residents for your riches and a business zip code on WeHo because it’s just Bougie to do so! I have had ENOUGH of these mobilized motorized menacing machines. Get them off our sidewalks and streets, please so no one on the sidewalks and streets is seriously injured or killedby one of them!

    1. A ban does nothing without enforcement. And with electric bikes and scooters, a ban is technically not necessary for sidewalks, as they are not allowed on the sidewalk, by CA law. I’m not sure if they can be legally banned from streets. Perhaps. Santa Monica Blvd is technically a State highway. So I’m not sure the City can ban certain types of vehicles from riding on it. But, once again, it means nothing, if the law isn’t enforced.

    2. Perhaps we should ban cars instead, since they pose a much greater threat to everyone than any electric micromobility device. If it weren’t impossible to ride them, or a conventional bicycle, on the streets in West Hollywood then no one would ride them on the sidewalk. That we just implicitly accept the danger to personal safety and cost to the environment (and thereby our collective health) of driving cars is a testament to how broken our thinking as a society is about this topic.

  6. I was hit by a guy on a skateboard a couple weeks ago as he as going west on SMB and I was turning left at the corner of Emser Tile. He was traveling right up against the building. I wasn’t injured but I could have been badly. He fell off his skateboard and it went flying. He apologized, but he got back on the skateboard doing the same thing not having learned a thing.

  7. Poor woman.

    No big surprise. Riding a bike or scooter or skateboarding in West Hollywood is tempting fate and is in the hands of speeding drivers, texting, phoning, adjusting their hair, putting on make-up, changing lanes without signaling, etc.

    The blame falls on the West Hollywood “Student” City Council which has approved all the bike and scooter gimmicks, wasting thousands of dollars.

    You could sell those five political hacks the Brooklyn Bridge.

    1. “The blame falls on the West Hollywood “Student” City Council which has approved all the bike and scooter gimmicks, wasting thousands of dollars.”

      Umm…name one? Our Council has not approved any bike and scooter “gimmicks”. Our Council has done the opposite and banned them, going so far as to confiscate them from our sidewalks after 3 hours.

  8. This just shows that as much as the city wants to ignore these last mile vehicles and say not our problem, just don’t park them here, they need to start enforcing the already existing regulations governing their use. Give tickets for sidewalk riding. Give tickets for hazardous driving, etc…

  9. There are WAYYYY too many distractions on the streets now. Where does it stop? Wheels, scooters, bikes, skates, flying pigs, ENOUGH already!!!!!

    1. Totally! Actually the flying pigs thing is not too far off. Companies are developing drones to make deliveries from businesses. Drivers have to be so hyper-aware when driving now, that if I don’t have to drive anywhere, I walk , which is another dangerous situation. I guess it’s just a matter of always being aware of what’s going on around me and not get distracted. It’s part of living in an urban area and technology. We have to watch out for ourselves and others. Be safe!

    2. As a senior who walks both WH and LA streets I’m feeling more and more unsafe. The scooters and now these bikes continue to come up behind me on the sidewalks. Without warning they are wizing by me. One mistep on my part could cause injury. So many riders are not following the law.

    3. Haha. Not to mention the bipedal distractions walking along the street, or the people who suddenly have to grab a parking spot in front of drivers talking away on their phones…

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