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Electric scooters get the green light in Santa Barbara

Joe Flood/Flickr
LimeBike electric scooters were the subject of an emergency ordinance passed by the Santa Barbara city council Tuesday.

Santa Barbara city officials unanimously passed an emergency ordinance this week to regulate electric scooter rentals. City officials were not pleased that Santa Barbara was was used as launch site for the newest trend in ride sharing services.

Electric scooter rentals work like this: download an app, find a scooter, and go for a ride. It costs a dollar to rent and then 15 cents for each minute you ride. The fastest you can go is about 15 mph.

San Mateo company LimeBike put about 100 scooters around downtown Santa Barbara last week. The city promptly impounded them.

At this week's Santa Barbara City Council meeting, officials expressed their displeasure that LimeBike directly disobeyed city rules. City council member Gregg Hart appeared the most irate.

“Let me make sure I understand exactly what you are trying to tell me,” Hart said, speaking to a representative of LimeBike. “My understanding is that city staff told you not to do what you did, and that you, maybe not you [directly], but someone in your company decided to do it anyway.”

City officials said that having scooters on the sidewalks for people to share without regulations can pose safety hazards for residents and tourists. City staff recommended an electric scooter permit application fee of $5,000; permit fees of $10,000 plus $100 per scooter, which they say would offset administrative costs of regulating the scooters; and if the scooter is mismanaged or improperly abandoned, staff recommended that the city impose a $100 impound fee.

The City of Santa Barbara is now accepting applications from electric scooter companies. Companies who apply must submit a service plan that ensures customers will safely ride their scooters, park them properly and obey traffic laws.