A scourge of scooters?

A Bird scooter is left near the walking path around Lake Merritt in Oakland.

A Bird scooter is left near the walking path around Lake Merritt in Oakland.

What Sacramento wants: People getting out of their cars and using electric scooters for short trips to reduce traffic and greenhouse gases.

What we don’t: The mess that happened in Oakland and San Francisco—scooters blocking sidewalks, even dumped in Lake Merritt.

Like it or not, motorized scooters are coming to our fair city. The challenge for officials is to steer them in the right direction. Writing the rules has already taken months.

Responding to reaction at the November 27 meeting of the City Council’s Law and Legislation Committee, city staffers revised the proposal for the committee to review on February 5.

After industry concern about fees, the new plan reduced the total projected levy by about $200,000 a year. For instance, the fine for obstructing sidewalks was cut from $25 to $15. The annual fee to pay for additional staff to monitor companies was cut from $156 per scooter to $104. Instead of a flat fee of $355 per scooter a year so the city can provide parking, the new plan calls for a 25-cent per trip fee in the first year and 10 cents after that.

But scooter companies are still not satisfied. Representatives from Bird, Lime and Razor complained that the annual fees would total about $400 to $500 per scooter—far more than other cities—and would be a “barrier” to them coming to Sacramento. (JUMP, which already has electric bicycles all over town, put its first 50 scooters on Sacramento’s streets on February 8 under its existing permit with the city.)

Council members wanted to make sure that e-scooters are widely available—not just in the central city for tourists and workers, but also in disadvantaged neighborhoods for residents without cars or easy access to public transit. The new proposal includes a geographic distribution plan requiring that at least 20 percent of a company’s scooters be available each morning in “opportunity areas” that include North Sacramento and South Sacramento, plus an “equity plan” calling for discounts for poorer customers.

On February 5, the committee voted unanimously to send the revised plan to the full council, which is scheduled to consider it on Tuesday, March 12.

We’ll see whether industry lobbying makes a difference. It already wielded its clout at the state Capitol to get rid of a requirement that riders 18 and older wear helmets. Under state law, riders caught on the sidewalk can face a $25 fine, plus administrative fees. Also, scooters cannot go faster than 15 mph or travel on a street with a posted speed limit of more than 35 mph.

But these laws are rarely enforced. And since e-scooters hit cities in force last year, there have been complaints galore. It got so bad in San Francisco that the city banned them, then rejected Bird, Lime and Spin—the companies that had behaved badly—when awarding the first permits.

While Sacramento is trying to prevent those problems, committee Chairman Jay Schenirer said that he’s still concerned about safety. A Midtown resident warned that without strict enforcement, pedestrians will get hit by scooters.

They’re right.

Scooters may well make Sacramento more hip. The city must make sure they don’t become a nuisance.