On Dec. 21, 2020, the West Hollywood City Council will consider a “Dockless Bike Share Pilot Program Update” (Item 4.A. in the agenda). This is an ongoing topic in which the City may test systems to replace its discontinued municipal bike share program with a system run by a private company. That landscape is rapidly changing and the only systems currently on offer from three applicants are e-scooters and Class 2 throttle-assist electric bikes (i.e., “Wheels”), both of which were previously banned by the City Council. Class 2 bikes are now recommended by the Transportation Commission and staff. Alternatives listed in the staff report include allowing e-scooters or having “no pilot program” (see staff report).
Comments can be submitted either by e-comment ahead of, and/or telephone during, the meeting; see in the agenda for instructions. The meeting can be viewed online (see link for Dec. 21st meeting that appears on the Council’s WeHoTV page when the meeting starts).
Statement from The West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition:
December 21, 2020
Re: Item 4A, Dockless Bike Share Pilot Program
Dear Mayor Horvath and Councilmembers:
We write to support proposals in item 4A to broaden West Hollywood’s RFP for a shared micro-mobility program to include throttle assist bicycles and e-scooters, and to allow multiple vendors to serve the city during the pilot. The city has no pending RFP applicants for electric bicycles, so — unless it revises the scope of mobility options — West Hollywood will continue to lack any shared micro-mobility option.
About half of all trips are three miles or less, making micro-mobility an ideal, greener option. Without a shared mobility option, many West Hollywood residents, workers, and visitors making short trips are still steered into much larger, far more destructive options, i.e., motor vehicles.
Many city residents, workers, and visitors would like to use, but not own, bikes, scooters, or similar devices. With most residents living in apartments, many do not have room to securely store a micro-mobility device. Many of our members have had a bike — and/or a wheel, brakes, or other integral parts of their bike — stolen. This is also a concern for workers where there is no secure storage. Shared micro-mobility is a great option to allow individuals to increase the number of trips they make without a car without the inconvenience, expense, and risk of owning the devices.
It has been very disappointing to see our city lack shared micro-mobility options for the past two years following the closure of WeHoPedals with no alternative in place. In contrast, in neighboring Los Angeles, shared scooters, throttle assist bicycles, and other devices have been widely available for years. To our west, Beverly Hills has bikeshare in place.
West Hollywood’s prohibition on shared micro-mobility stands in contrast with its professed commitment to addressing the climate crisis. Passenger vehicles are California’s #1 contributor to not only greenhouse gas emissions, but other types of air pollution that contributes to deaths, notably from COVID-19. 1 Our city needs to do its part to allow realistic, efficient alternatives to cars for short- and medium-length trips.
Another danger posed by banning shared micro-mobility and steering transportation to cars is collisions. Cars typically weigh more than two-tons and, in contrast to shared micro-mobility, have no mechanisms to prevent speeding. Each year, car collisions take the lives of more than 32,000 people in the U.S. and hospitalize more than two million. 2
In addition to reducing car-related destruction, allowing shared micro-mobility can be expected to reduce traffic congestion, a perennial complaint of motorists. Heavy car traffic also impacts anyone using buses in the city and it leads to less safe and less comfortable streets for those walking and biking.
It is important that the city allow more than just one vendor. We have seen vendors suddenly close in this rapidly changing landscape. West Hollywood has already been without micro-mobility for over a year. We don’t want a repeat should a single, selected vendor pull out of the city.
Moreover, one of WeHoPedals’ shortcomings was that it failed to interconnect with locations in L.A, despite L.A. bordering our small city on three sides. Round trips via the Hollywood/Highland Metro, the Grove, LACMA, or numerous other destinations were impractical because it was highly unlikely that a WeHoPedals bike would be there for a return trip. This limited the system’s usefulness for trips other than within WeHo or to Beverly Hills, UCLA, and Santa Monica. In contrast, L.A. allows multiple types of shared mobility. Allowing only a single vendor in WeHo would repeat the failures of WeHoPedals by dramatically reducing the odds that a WeHo-legal device will be available for a return-trip.
We also urge the city to reconsider any provisions of the RFP that would drive up operators’ costs. Providing a greener alternative to motor vehicles is in the public interest. Onerous licensing and regulatory fees and excessive regulations drive up costs, and make this service less viable.
We also strongly urge that these micro-mobility devices be on equal footing with parking options for private cars and bicycles. If someone has to walk one or more blocks to or from micro-mobility transportation, it doesn’t really serve as a “first-mile, last-mile” option. Shared mobility devices should be allowed to be parked on streets and on the furniture zone of each sidewalk. The very limited number of locations where WeHoPedals were regularly stationed was one of the shortcomings that contributed to its failure. It speaks very poorly of our city’s priorities if free storage is allowed on public streets for 2-ton private motor vehicles but not for small shared micro-mobility devices.
It is important to recognize that, until transportation infrastructure better protects bicyclists and micro-mobility users from cars, the number of people who will shift away from cars will be limited. West Hollywood lacks an east/west bike route east of Kings Road, and our bike lanes are not physically separate from car traffic, resulting in doorings and collisions. For the city to stand up for its ideals, it needs to improve safety for these transportation options to encourage their use.
We breathe the air cars pollute. We live on a planet that will be devastated by climate crisis. More cars on the streets translate to a less pleasant, more stressful rides. And we are particularly vulnerable to the damage done by automobile collisions. We know bicyclists who have stopped biking due to traffic violence, including who died from it. Several of us have been victims of it ourselves. The more trips we can shift away from cars, the safer we will be.
We urge the city to do its part and legalize and sensibly regulate greener transportation options in a way that reflects the lessons learned from WeHoPedals’ shortcomings.
The West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition
1 Alan Neuhauser, “100,000 Americans Die from Air Pollution, Study Finds,” US News and World Report, April 8, 2019.; Air pollution linked with higher COVID-19 death rates,” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “LA County Exposed to 250 Percent More Pollution From Cars Than Bay Area, New Study Finds,” NBC Los Angeles, February 5, 2019.
2 Motor Vehicle Deaths, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/motor-vehicle-safety/index.html