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Electric scooters face uncertain future in Goleta after temporary ban

Goleta City Council’s unanimous vote to temporarily ban on-demand motorized scooters is sending them away as quickly as they came in.

Scooter companies Bird and Lime saw their scooters become widely popular for some but widely frustrating for others in the city.

“We had two businesses that really had a poor business plan,” Goleta City Council member Roger Aceves said. “They came into our city, 400 scooters [between the two companies]. Planted them everywhere. In front of businesses, in front of residences. And they were conducting business in the public right of way.”

Both Aceves and Goleta mayor Paula Perotte say that the scooters could have a place in Goleta, but that the companies need to work with the city on fixing common issues. Some have complained that the scooters become cluttered on sidewalks and prevent people from walking or getting around in wheelchairs. Others say they pose a safety risk for scooter riders and others; some riders do not wear helmets or ride with another person on the scooter, both of which are not allowed.

The city started impounding the remaining scooters on Wednesday, though a few were still visible in Goleta on Friday afternoon. They remain widespread and popular in nearby Isla Vista, where several UC Santa Barbara students use them as an alternative to walking or driving.

“I think they’re cool, I think they’re great,” UCSB student Yasmine Malas said. “I think that they’re fine and safe, if they’re used responsibly.”

Pablo Leonard collects scooters in his car, then charges them and returns them to designated locations for Bird. He says that while he thinks the scooters are fun to ride, he understands why Goleta decided to ban them for now. Leonard says that if the scooter companies want to thrive, they need to be more organized.

“I think it’s a complicated issue,” says Leonard, who calls his position a “juicer.” “I fully understand why they wouldn’t want to have to walk over scooters in the middle of the road or sidewalk… because really just mayhem of scooters everywhere, all over the place, that’s not a real benefit for the average person.”

The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments will hold a forum with Goleta City Council and other local governments next month to discuss a regional approach to the issue. The city of Santa Barbara banned and began impounding the scooters this summer.

Bird did not respond to a request for comment but Lime said in a statement that it “is encouraged that the prohibition seems to be temporary and we look forward to working with the city on a pilot program that meets the mobility needs of the community while also ensuring that all the concerns, including those about about right of way access, are addressed.”

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