Santa Monica: Shared Mobility Drop Zones

Santa Monica Article - August 23 2018.jpg

The Californian city is no stranger to innovation: most famously, it is home to the disruptive, scooter powerhouse called Bird. Promptly understanding that new modes of transportation, such as e-bikes and e-scooters, are here to stay, Santa Monica decided to do more than attempting to curtail the growing popularity of these last-mile solutions: it chose to help them settle in. 

Only last July, Santa Monica published a call for applications for its Shared Mobility Pilot Program. The call attracted a lot of attention: 18 applications for dockless scooters and bikes came in. The announcement of the selected providers (4 will be licensed: 2 scooter / 2 bike providers) is expected to be made on August 30, 2018 and operation of the 18-month scheme will begin on September 18, 2018. 

But until then, Santa Monica is taking steps to make the lucky 4 feel right at home. Through a post on Twitter, it showed the rest of the world that in case you cannot beat them, you have to join them. After teasing its new Shared Mobility Drop Zones two days ago and with less than a month until the pilot programme kicks off, the City of Santa Monica showed us how dockless scooters and bikes can be used in cities without disrupting the life of pedestrians (at least, not too much). 

The new Shared Mobility Drop Zones are effectively parking spaces for e-bikes and e-scooters. Through the tweets posted on the City's Twitter account over the past few days, it emerges that bikes and scooters will have independent, dedicated parking spots - the purpose specific spots will be easily recognisable, as they feature stencil painted scooters or bikes on the ground. 

The City of Santa Monica is committed to doing everything we can to ensure safe, convenient, and legal options that protect the public right of way and keep streets accessible to everyone and free of clutter
— Constance Farrell - Public Information Officer for Santa Monica (Source: SMDP)

The responsible initiative by the City of Santa Monica may allow the local police to enforce the relevant rules even more strictly - as Constance Farrell, Public Information Officer for Santa Monica told the Santa Monica Daily Press, emergency ordinances, such as impounding, are still in place. Less than a month ago, the Santa Monica police force started a crackdown on electric scooters, after the public complained vehemently about the scooters blocking the beachside bicycle path. The dedicated parking spots will hopefully allow dockless riders and pedestrians to coexist peacefully. 

Although Santa Monica became the target of a 24-hour protest by Lime and Bird recently, after the Committee chosen to lead the pilot endorsed Uber (JUMP) and Lyft for both e-scooter and e-bike licences, their Drop Zones can set an example for other cities. While lock-in dockless mechanism, pioneered by companies like Zagster (Pace) and Jump can provide an alternative to dedicated parking spots (and is, indeed, gaining some ground in places like Chicago), the safest way to guarantee hassle-free coexistence of pedestrians and riders is through providing ample, dedicated parking space. Interestingly, the photos of the bike parking spaces provided by the City of Santa Monica show some bike racks installed, which will be necessary if a lock-in bike provider, such as Jump, is chosen - maybe another sign that Jump will be granted the right to operate in Santa Monica?  

Photo Credit: City of Santa Monica