Newly negotiated terms with scooter companies Bird and Lime failed to win over Councilmembers Lauren Meister and John Heilman, who wanted to end the city’s controversial micromobility program at City Council’s Monday night meeting.
Meister initiated the discussion, inquiring about the specific details of ABM, the company responsible for collecting scooters that are parked improperly. Staff noted that ABM’s contract was suggested to be extended for a further six months, not to position ABM as the primary responders but rather to have them offer supplemental administrative support and fleet services.
This was to assist in the smooth transition to a new operating agreement in which Bird and Lime would assume that responsibility. The aim was to observe the ability of the scooter companies to manage their devices independently, without ABM’s direct intervention in the field, though ABM would still be available for immediate response if necessary.
The topic of insurance for the dockless micromobility program was a significant point of discussion. Nicole McClinton, the Senior Administrative Analyst for the Administrative Services Department City Clerk’s Office, elucidated that the insurance market for such services was limited to the state of California, which mandates a $10,000 requirement. The idea of the companies being self-insured was floated, but the companies were not interested.
During Public Comment, Nicholas Roybal brought up the possibility of demanding new scooters from the companies, citing the current fleet’s dilapidated state and the safety concerns it posed.
George Nickle challenged the program’s environmental claims, arguing that the prevalent use of scooters was replacing walking trips, thus not contributing positively to reducing carbon emissions. He also highlighted the nuisance caused by scooters obstructing sidewalks, particularly affecting the disabled and elderly.
Kevin Burton, speaking for the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition, expressed support for the continuation of the program. He pointed out the potential for technological advancements to enhance scooter safety and legal compliance, such as AI and imaging technologies that could prevent scooters from operating on sidewalks or colliding with pedestrians.
Alan Strasburg voiced his frustration over the companies’ historical non-compliance with ADA requirements and the city’s decision to potentially reward these companies with contracts despite their past failures. He underscored the need for immediate action to address the scooters blocking sidewalks. Dan Harrington Tyrell brought up the concern about the program increasing the city’s liability, particularly relating to ADA compliance issues on sidewalks. He questioned the wisdom of continuing a program that seemed to hinder accessibility for disabled individuals.
Annie Jump Vicente raised concerns about the financial contributions of the scooter companies to the city, juxtaposing it against their profits. She also criticized the continued non-compliance with ADA regulations, referring to the scooters as ‘corporate litter’ and highlighting the lack of enforcement of regulations.
Kathy Blaivas shared an anecdotal incident to illustrate the problems with how scooters are handled and placed by company employees, contributing to the broader issue of scooter management within the city.
Meister then voiced her position, expressing skepticism about the scooter companies’ willingness to adopt responsible practices. She argued against renewing the city’s contract with these companies, suggesting a different approach where individuals would own their scooters. This ownership, she argued, would instill a greater sense of responsibility compared to the current system of renting from companies that have shown little concern for accountability. Meister criticized the scooter companies for not enforcing weight checks and failing to provide adequate insurance.
“I’m going to continue to not support this pilot,” Meister said. “I don’t believe that these particular companies are going to do anything differently than they doing now or that they’ve done in the past two or three years. And they’re not going to be accountable. They’re not going to take responsibility for accidents. And so my feeling is we should let the contract expire.”
Councilmember Chelsea Byers moved to proceed with the current scooter plan, but with an openness to future adaptations. She acknowledged the evolving nature of the conversation around mobility options in West Hollywood, highlighting the community’s interest in a docked solution. Byers emphasized the city’s ongoing efforts to improve mobility infrastructure and technology, suggesting that the scooter program’s current form is not necessarily its final iteration.
Heilman expressed opposition to the motion, focusing on the inadequate insurance provided by the scooter companies and their general lack of accountability. Heilman criticized the financial burden placed on the city due to the need to collect improperly parked scooters, arguing that the responsibility for managing these issues should lie with the companies, not the city. Heilman’s stance was that until the scooter companies demonstrate a willingness to take responsibility for their riders’ actions and the placement of their scooters, the extension of the program would not be supportable.
“We are still having to bear the cost of picking up the scooters — that to me is completely outrageous,” Heilman said.
Mayor Sepi Shyne was the deciding vote in favor of the program moving forward. She supported asking for new scooters and vowed to “look strongly at the numbers.”
The program won’t return for another review by City Council until 2025.