Lynn Schenk: “It was more than mildly threatening to me. How dare they say something like that?”
The frenzy of electric scooters filling the streets of San Diego has begun to grow anew as the state lifts its last anti-pandemic strictures.
Burgeoning too are local lobbyists lining up downtown to grease political wheels as the city edges closer to crafting another round of regulations.
Now, word of the recent e-scooter-related death of a noted stage and movie actress on the streets of New York City has raised new safety questions about the popular means of conveyance.
Among the latest to join the lucrative San Diego influence-peddling gold rush is Causa Consulting, a lobbying firm run by Democratic ex-city councilman and mayoral candidate David Alvarez, working on behalf of Bird scooters.
Among Alvarez’s tasks, according to a June 15 disclosure filing, is to “identify/include equity and access components in the city’s Shared Mobility Device program, future [Requests for Proposals], and other regulations related to the city’s program.”
Besides safety worries, the latest point of contention between the e-scooter industry and San Diego critics is over letters sent by Bird to those deemed making “improper impoundments” of its scooters by calling a contractor to remove the vehicles.
“Some are parked in red zones and right on my property,” ex-Democratic congresswoman Lynn Schenk of La Jolla said in an April 1 U-T interview. “These scooters create visual blight and take up parking. Some are left in the street, and they are unsafe.”
As for Bird’s mailed missive, Schenk said, “It was more than mildly threatening to me. How dare they say something like that? There are people that get intimidated and worry and lose sleep over that.”
Actress Lisa Banes died of severe head injuries last Monday.
Bird isn’t the only e-scooter vendor to deploy its lobbying might here.
In an April 9 filing, Intesa Communications group says it is working for Superpedestrian, which operates Link scooters. The goal: “general awareness of provider and City’s upcoming scooter [Request for Proposals.],” along with the “successful award of scooter contract with the City of San Diego.”
Another member of the crowded city hall lobbying corps, the Presidio Public Affairs Group, founded by Jason Roe, a one-time close advisor to Republican ex-mayor Kevin Faulconer who first allowed e-scooters here, reported getting $5000 from “dockless mobility” purveyor Lime, Inc. of San Francisco.
The assignment was to pursue “favorable regulations which allow the company to operate within the City of San Diego,” per a May 1 Presidio filing.
Ex-city councilman David Alvarez is lobbying on behalf of Bird scooters.
Lime pulled out of San Diego in January 2020, issuing a statement saying, “As part of our path to profitability, Lime has made the difficult decision to exit San Diego and focus our resources on markets that allow us to meet our ambitious goals for 2020.”
Added the company, “We appreciate the partnership we’ve enjoyed with San Diego and remain hopeful we can reintroduce Lime back into the community when the time is right.”
Last month, the city of Atlanta, Georgia, picked three scooter vendors, including Bird, Lime, and Spin, to get exclusive contracts per a June 17 according to the Atlanta Business Journal.
“The city scored the scooter providers on their operations plan, user communication, fleet design, and equity strategy,” according to the story. “The three companies with the highest scores received the permits.”
But the national ramp-up of the e-scooter business has run head-on into last week’s demise of actress Lisa Banes, who died of severe head injuries last Monday after being hit on June 4 by a hit-and-run e-scooter on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
“Quite clearly, the mayor has not prioritized street safety or re-imagining our city around people and their needs, and as a result we are seeing an uptick in violence,” Danny Harris of the group Transportation Alternatives told WCBS-TV.
“I’m very troubled when people go against traffic and create danger for themselves and others,” responded New York mayor Bill de Blasio.
“So we’re going to keep refining how we regulate, how we enforce. But again, anytime we believe a particular company is not acting in a way that’s safe for New Yorkers, we also maintain the option to shut them down.”
London’s Daily Mail recounted the recent deaths,in addition to that of Banes, that e-devices have caused in New York.
“Real estate broker Kelly Killian, 54, was killed after she was struck by a deliveryman on an e-bike in Astoria, Queens on May 28,” the paper reported. “Hing Chung, 71, died just days after he was struck by an e-bike and suffered head trauma on April 17 in the Upper West Side.
“Following Chung’s death, the Community Board 7 – which encompasses the Upper West Side – has been trying to ban e-bikes from traveling in designated bike lanes and calling for greater enforcement of road rules for these riders.”
The e-scooter industry has long had a friend in San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “Banning new technology because it’s a nuisance or because we don’t immediately understand how it fits into our lives is rarely the best approach.” then Assembly Democrat Gloria wrote in an August 19, 2019, San Diego Union-Tribune op-ed piece.
“I don’t believe that banning dockless electric scooters is the right answer, either,” added Gloria. “We have to think bigger than a ban. That’s not the easy answer, but it’s the one that will get us closer to creating a city that works for all of us.”