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Disabilities Rights Group Files Lawsuit Against San Diego, Scooter Companies

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

A disabilities rights group has sued San Diego and three scooter companies for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, reports NBC San Diego.

Bird, Lime, Razor, and San Diego are named in the class-action suit, saying that the companies and the city have not kept sidewalks clear from “an onslaught of unregulated dockless scooters.”

The lawsuit, from Disability Rights California and three disabled San Diego residents (as well as one plaintiff who lives in nearby Spring Valley), says that “the scooter defendants have used and appropriated varying portions of the City’s public sidewalks, crosswalks, transit stops, curb ramps, pedestrian crossings and other walkways, by allowing dockless scooters and [sic] used primarily for recreational purposes to proliferate unchecked,” 10News reported.

“My life is totally changed” after the scooters, Philip Pressel, who uses a mobility scooter and is one of the plaintiffs, told NBC San Diego. “They whiz by speeds, inches away from my scooter.”

In at least one instance, another of the plaintiffs, Rex Shirley, who uses a scooter because of his Parkinson’s disease, was unable to leave his home because of dockless scooters blocking the entrance, the suit said.

The plaintiffs are asking for statutory damages as well as for the scooter companies to return “monies wrongfully obtained as a result of…wrongful and illegal conduct,” and for scooters to stop operating on the sidewalks and other pedestrian routes.

San Diego already requires scooter users to use roadways, not sidewalks and not to block sidewalks when parking, but these provisions seem largely unenforced. Police say that ticketing scooter riders is a low priority, Government Technology reports. The lawsuit adds that San Diego has “intentionally or recklessly” overlooked the parking issues, even as it uses the same “blocking the public right of way” law to arrest people experiencing homelessness who have left their bags on the ground.

San Diego is considering reforming its scooter laws to lower max speed limits in certain neighborhoods, require scooter companies to share data (including fleet sizes, which is currently an unknown in the city) and require individual scooters to carry signage reminding users not to ride on sidewalks. Those regulations were approved unanimously by the council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee in October, but has yet to come to a full vote.

The city is currently served by Bird, Lime, relative newcomer Razor (yes, that Razor), as well as Lyft and Uber scooters. It’s unclear why Lyft and Uber were not named in the suit.

The lawsuit is so new, some of the companies haven’t been served yet, NBC San Diego said. A spokesperson for the city attorney’s office told 10News they will review the complaint and respond appropriately. Lime didn’t comment on the pending suit but did say it makes safety a priority. Bird and Razor have not responded to queries as of press time.

Bird and Lime are also facing another class-action lawsuit in Los Angeles county court, in which plaintiffs argue they’ve been injured by the scooters, Ars Technica reported. Both scooter riders and pedestrians say they’ve sustained broken bones, torn ligaments, face lacerations and damaged teeth as a result of the scooters, Curbed reports. On the same day the suit was filed, Lime announced changes to its scooter that include safety improvements like fatter wheels and a dual braking system. (Around the same time, Lime pulled some models of scooter from its fleet when it realized that the batteries in them could catch fire.)

Rachel Kaufman is Next City's senior editor, responsible for our daily journalism. She was a longtime Next City freelance writer and editor before coming on staff full-time. She has covered transportation, sustainability, science and tech. Her writing has appeared in Inc., National Geographic News, Scientific American and other outlets.

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