Why Venice Beach is the Scooter Wars' Latest Battleground

August 23, 2018

By Jacqueline Corba and Carlo Versano

Venice Beach is the latest battleground in the scooter wars ー the polarizing mode of transport has most tourists excited but many locals groaning.

Bird and Lime seemed to launch overnight, taking the streets by storm and attracting enemies in city councils up and down the West Coast this summer. They both have billion-dollar-plus valuations.

It costs $1 to start a ride via an app, and 15 cents each minute. Scooters can go up to 15 mph, are tracked by GPS, and lock remotely so they can be left virtually anywhere. That is, indeed, part of the controversy.

Social media accounts have spread just as quickly as the scooters themselves, documenting the "creative" ways they're parked, vandalized, and destroyed. The accounts are partially a response to the way in which these scooters were introduced ー suddenly and without any public input.

Regulators are scrambling to account for scooters in their mobility plans. Local lawmakers seem conflicted by emission-free, short-distance transport that's good for the environment but also poses a hazard to public safety.

Santa Monica, where Bird is headquartered, said last week that it's all for electric scooters on its streets ー just not those owned by Bird or Lime. Instead, city officials endorsed companies run by Uber and Lyft for its shared mobility pilot program which consists of e-bikes and scooters. The municipality will make its final determination on Aug. 30, and other cities are watching closely.

For Bird, the move was a slap in the face ー and from its hometown, no less. Both Bird and Lime protested by shutting down their apps in the city for a day, while the companies' supporters staged a rally.

But just down the beach in Venice, scooters are very popular among tourists and commuters who flock to a neighborhood now known for both its tech start-ups and the famed Muscle Beach.

Sam Cooper, owner of the popular neighborhood cafe Great White, said the scooters are particularly welcome in an area known for its lack of parking.

But he does prefer Bird over Lime.

"You've got to support the locals," Cooper told Cheddar's Alyssa Julya Smith.