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As scooters flood Los Angeles, the number of tickets written to riders is soaring

An LAPD bike officer warns two young men about riding their e-scooters on the sidewalk, in front of Fairfax High School near the intersection of Fairfax and Melrose avenues on Thursday.
An LAPD bike officer warns two young men about riding their e-scooters on the sidewalk, in front of Fairfax High School near the intersection of Fairfax and Melrose avenues on Thursday.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

As the number of electric scooters across Los Angeles has spiked, so has the number of tickets issued to their riders.

The Los Angeles Police Department wrote 800 tickets to riders on the zippy electric vehicles between January of 2018 and mid-July, and cited them for more than 900 violations, according to city data analyzed by The Times.

For the record:
9:43 AM, Aug. 23, 2019 An earlier version of this article said Bird and Lime scooters charge users 15 cents a minute to ride. After a $1 rental fee, the companies charge users by the minute, and prices can vary.

The ticketing rate rose sharply this summer as police officers targeted riders on the city’s narrow and sometimes crowded sidewalks, the data show. In June, officers wrote 249 citations, a 1,815% increase compared with the same time last year.

Nearly two-thirds of the violations cited a California law that bans motorized vehicles on sidewalks.

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“If you are riding a scooter on a sidewalk, you will get a ticket,” said Paul Koretz, the most outspoken critic of scooters on the Los Angeles City Council, at a news conference Thursday in the Fairfax district. “It’s time to stop.”

A chart showing the sharp increase in monthly tickets written to scooter riders

Bird, Lime and other companies have added stickers on the baseboards of their vehicles that say, “No riding on sidewalks.” But the practice is still the norm in L.A., where cars can often move at 35 mph or faster on city streets.

Riding on sidewalks is “the most dangerous violation” for a scooter rider, Koretz said, because pedestrians can be knocked over if they can’t get out of the way.

California law prohibits riding electric scooters on the sidewalk. Users can ride in the street if the posted speed limit is 25 mph or slower, as close to the right-hand curb as possible, the law says. Scooter riders can also use bicycle lanes.

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As Koretz and police officials spoke, six LAPD traffic officers rode by on motorcycles near Fairfax High School.

Officers targeted scooter riders in the area for eight hours Thursday as part of the city’s effort to cut down on collisions and injuries, said Capt. Elaine Morales of the LAPD’s West Traffic Division

Of the crashes the department has analyzed, Morales said, scooter riders were at fault more than half the time.

From the start of the year through late May, the most recent data immediately available, the Los Angeles Fire Department reported a total of 160 incidents involving electric scooters. Those included 59 cases in which someone was taken to the hospital by paramedics or EMTs, and 21 cases in which a patient was treated without being transported.

The face value of a sidewalk-riding citation is $197, but that figure does not include court processing costs or other fees.

Bird and Lime scooters cost $1 to rent and charge users by the minute to ride, and typically require a credit card and a smartphone to get started.

The majority of the citations analyzed by The Times were written in downtown, Hollywood and the Westside, where many of the scooters are concentrated. Some written citations included multiple violations, such as riding on the sidewalk and riding without a valid driver’s license, The Times found.

After months of tinkering with regulations for scooter and shared bicycle companies, Los Angeles officials formally launched a one-year pilot program in April that tracks where the scooters operate and regulates how many are allowed within city limits.

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About 36,000 scooters are now registered to eight companies across L.A., Transportation Department spokeswoman Connie Llanos said.

The number of scooters operating in the city has been lower. In the third week of July, the average number of vehicles citywide was closer to 21,000, according to a recent report to a City Council committee.

The council districts that include Venice Beach and downtown L.A. had nearly 8,500 scooters between them, accounting for about 40% of the scooters across the city, the report said.

The three districts that cover the western and northern sections of the San Fernando Valley had an average of 118 scooters available per day between them during the same time period.

At the end of July, Fairfax — where the enforcement took place Thursday — was the fourth-busiest neighborhood for scooter riding, with a daily average of 719 trips per square mile, according to the Transportation Department.

The busiest area was Venice Beach, with 1,756 trips per square mile.

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A painted sign reminds scooter operators and pedestrians that electric scooters aren't allowed to be operated on sidewalks.
(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)


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