A year ago this week, shareable electric scooters arrived on Sacramento streets, racking up more than a million miles — including some illegally on sidewalks.
City officials say they’ve ramped up education and enforcement efforts, but data obtained by CapRadio suggest very few bad riders face consequences.
The Sacramento Police Department announced last November it would begin citing riders for infractions like using scooters on sidewalks. Officers gave 13 warnings but issued zero tickets in 2019.
So far this year, in January, police wrote 30 tickets and issued eight warnings.
Officer Karl Chan said the main focus has been teaching riders the rules.
“Education is the main goal,” Chan said. “We’re making sure that people who are using [the scooters] understand that there are some laws associated with them.”
The number of e-scooters in Sacramento rose dramatically last summer when two companies — Uber and Lime — increased their fleets by about 2,000.
This prompted the Police Department and the city to begin their education campaign, such as explaining that California law does not allow scooters on sidewalks, or teaching users where it’s OK to park.
The city of Sacramento’s enforcement role has focused on these illegally parked bikes and scooters, according to Transportation Planning Manager Jennifer Donlon Wyant.
Since December, enforcement officers have issued 1,400 citations and warnings for illegally parked scooters and bikes, which is the city’s “largest complaint from the public to our 311 system,” Wyant said.
Molly Wagner, with pedestrian advocacy group Walk Sacramento, says enforcement and education only address one part of the problem.
In other words, when the streets aren’t safe, “the sidewalk becomes the safest option for users,” she said.
This is especially true in underserved neighborhoods and communities of color, according to Wagner.
“We see this starting to become an equity issue because safe bike lanes — with the key word being ‘safe’ here — are not always available in lower-income communities, where the need for affordable and reliant transportation options are often the highest,” Wagner said.
She added that the way we get around is changing faster than the city’s ability to adapt, but she is optimistic about plans to create safer routes.
Emilie Cameron with the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, which represents business and property owners, agreed scooters are a quick way to get around — when used properly.
“The balance with pedestrian safety is critical, which is why continued education and enforcement are important for their success,” she said.
Chan with the police department says officers are seeing an increase in compliance and hope down the road to build on that through further cooperation with the city and the scooter companies.
“We would like to … have them educate their users,” Chan said. “We think that would be the best thing for everybody.”
For instance, Chan said a warning could pop up on the app to let users know it’s against the law to ride on sidewalks.
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