On Dec. 21, the West Hollywood City Council unanimously approved a pilot program to introduce e-bikes and e-scooters onto its streets. Three dockless vehicle companies will participate in the pilot, including Wheels, Lime, and Bird. The Council cited the pandemic as a reason for starting the program now. Beverly Hills cited the pandemic in November as a reason to further extend the city’s ban on ride-sharing services.
“Amongst things that I heard on the campaign trail, almost every other person was, ‘And please, for the love of God, stop the ban on scooters,'” said newly elected Councilmember John Erickson. “I, myself, who was once at one point really vehemently against a lot of these items, because I saw a lot of the impairments that it would bring about, started using them because my car broke down last year at this time and I had no way to get to work.”
The move comes just over two years after the city shuttered its own dockless bike share program, WeHo Pedals. The city then turned to the private marketplace for a solution, putting out a call for applications for a dockless electric bike share program in May 2019. Due to the “restrictive nature of the proposed program,” it received no contenders. Undaunted, the city put out a revised call in August 2019 and received applications from Jump, Bird, Lime and Wheels. By the time the city had vetted the applicants and was nearing a decision in January of 2020, COVID-19 began to spread through China, interrupting international supply chains.
The two top contenders for the program, Jump and Bird, both reported to West Hollywood that they would not be able to participate given the disruptions. The final nail in the coffin came when Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) prohibited use of micromobility services during the pandemic–a ban that Public Health lifted in October.
At the Dec. 21 meeting, the Council decided to begin the pilot program with the existing three applicants. The program will last 18 months, with the Council evaluating its progress every six months. The agenda item elicited considerable public comment, including from representatives from the companies vying for the pilot program.
“Ever since our founding in 2018, we have called West Hollywood home. I can promise you that no one would be more excited than us to follow the guidelines and make sure we make this community of West Hollywood proud,” said Wheels Chief Development Officer Paul Vizcaino.
In contrast to West Hollywood, Beverly Hills opted to continue its ban on shared-use transportation services at its Nov. 17 Regular Meeting. Beverly Hills first banned the devices after they began multiplying across the City in 2018. “The reason was complaints about riding on the sidewalk, the storage of the devices, leaving them on sidewalks, and then the public right of way,” explained Deputy Director of Transportation Aaron Kunz at the meeting.
The Beverly Hills City Council weighed multiple pilot programs during the six month ban, but found that none of them adequately addressed the issues. The Council then put in place a prohibition lasting until January 2021. In light of the pandemic, the Council extended the moratorium until one year after either the State of California or the City of Beverly Hills lifted its declaration of emergency–whichever comes first.
West Hollywood, however, saw the pandemic as a compelling reason to implement the program. As one caller pointed out, COVID-19 has complicated other forms of transportation. “More people are looking for ways to get around and not get in the car with someone. I’ve used Uber once in the last 10 months because I don’t feel comfortable with getting in the car with a stranger,” one commenter said.
“Micromobility will help our community deal with gridlock and existential climate crisis by providing locals and visitors with alternative modes to move around the city that’s not only more sustainable than driving but also a great deal of fun,” said West Hollywood Transportation Commissioner Alexander Bazley, who commented as a resident