“A guy came into our store and said he got a $300 ticket,” Judy said.
Her 18-year-old co-worker Corey Winkle confirmed. “Everything that’s motorized requires a helmet,” he said, “and another thing is that the Bird [motorized scooters] and some of the scooters that we have here, go above the [8 mph] speed limit and that’s another cause of getting ticketed.”
Both work at the Mission Beach Rentals at Belmont Park, which is about 50 feet away from Ocean Front Walk in Mission Beach.
Over Memorial Day weekend, motorized scooter operators received citations from the San Diego Police Department — along some of the 3.5 mile concrete walkway that spans from South Mission Beach to North Pacific Beach and adjacent streets.
“There were Bird traps out all weekend,” Heather said. “I walked by a few, on Mission Boulevard; one in particular besides Open Bar where there’s an enclave where he (a police officer) was hiding; a lot on Garnet Avenue and Cass Street; and they were all over the boardwalk.”
Heather is a 40-year-old college instructor who lives close to the boardwalk. She “loves” the matte-black colored Bird scooters which measure about four feet long and four feet tall, and cost $1 to activate and an additional 15 cents per minute to scoot (via a smartphone app, a credit card and a valid drivers license). “…. because they’re quicker than my bike; I don’t have to worry about parking it, locking it up and then hope it doesn’t get stolen; and they’re small to park/store.”
During the weekend, Heather notified her neighbors of the Bird busts on Facebook; others posted photos of the Bird traps.
“There were two arrests for DUIs on the scooters over the weekend,” Winkle said.
“I saw a lot of drunk 20-somethings riding around,” Heather said, “my neighbor had a party and a few intoxicated guests showed up via Bird.”
On May 26, the Pacific.Beach Instagram account, which is a “society and culture website” with over 30K followers, posted a photo of a handcuffed individual sitting on the curb behind what appears to be a policeman and a patrol bike. On the photo, it was captioned “Scooter DUI” and underneath it read: “So the scooter ban didn’t pass but the city has other ways of protecting its citizens (followed by a pot-of-gold and a sack-of-money emoticons).”
“They were saying that the tickets were between $200-$300,” said Maria, one of the sales reps at Hamel’s Surf Shop on Ocean Front Walk at the end of Ventura Place.
During her Saturday, Sunday, and Monday shifts, she witnessed more than 20 riders receive tickets by her store “and my sister worked on Friday, and she said cops were already stopping everybody and there was a whole pile of scooters in the corner.”
I spoke to William at around 6 p.m. on May 29th. He rode his bike in from Point Loma and was resting on one of the cement benches by the parking lot and bathrooms outside of the Mission Beach Rentals. “On Sunday, I was here for a good 3.5 hours and between here to Law Street and back, I saw 25 people or more getting cited. They (the SDPD) were rockin’ and rollin’. They had sets of two officers and some of them were on foot and some of them were on quads.”
While we sat there, about 15 or so individuals rode by on Birds and a couple on the Lime-S scooters; none wore helmets.
“It was a $300 fine by the way,” William said. “…. and about three weeks ago, a guy traveling northbound on the boardwalk with a Bird ran into a girl in front of the Draft Mission Beach restaurant and she got knocked to the ground. She had a big gash on her head, was bleeding and she got knocked unconscious. I went over to make sure she was ok.”
(I walked to the lifeguard station which is a block north on the boardwalk from where we sat, to confirm Williams’ story. The woman lifeguard couldn’t make a statement regarding the inured girl, but she did confirm that SDPD was citing Bird operators over the weekend.)
“All of these tourists come here and they don’t have a clue,” William said, “I mean with the yellow line where people should ride and walk on the one side [depending if they are travelling north or south].”
Tayfun and Annika were visiting from Bavaria.
“We don’t have this in Germany,” Annika said. “…. and for $1 to open, it’s very good, it’s cheap, smart and it’s everywhere,” Tayfun said.
The two weren’t wearing helmets when I saw them, and Annika said “I think people are too busy looking at their phones …. we didn’t see the warnings.”
“It says right here 'helmet required,' said Pete as he pointed by the Bird’s floorboard. Pete’s a Bird charger who was the only person on the boardwalk (that I saw), wearing a helmet while riding a motorized scooter. He was picking up scooters one-or-two at a time, and bringing them back to his vehicle to charge.
“I get paid between $5 and $20 per Bird,” he said. “[On Monday] the cop’s shouting at me, which I don’t like, and she gave me a thumbs up and points at the helmet ….. just put a helmet on and be safe.”
Tayfun and Annika then asked “But how?”
Pete then pulled out his smartphone and said “Bird offers helmets to active riders for free (with a shipping/handling fee).”
Mission Beach Rentals rent out motorized-scooters for $15 for the first hour and an additional $5 per hour after. “We provide them with a helmet,” Winkle said, “but if they choose to hang it up, that’s on them.”