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Bird and Lime face legal backlash from disability rights group

Bird and Lime face legal backlash from disability rights group

Are carelessly parked scooters a pain in the ass? Quite possibly, especially if you're a disabled person in San Diego. A disability rights group has sued the City of San Diego and three companies including popular e-scooter sharing platforms Bird and Lime.

The new proposed class-action lawsuit, Montoya et al v. City of San Diego, alleges that the city authority and e-scooter startups violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and other state laws relating to disabilities and accessibility.

Disability Rights California claims that e-scooter companies are making the city sidewalks dangerous for people with physical disabilities by cluttering the sidewalks with carelessly placed scooters. The geo-fencing created by the companies doesn't take into account the potential danger to the disabled.  As for the City of San Diego et al, the urban authorities have made the problem worse by neglecting to keep the sidewalks and roads clear of obstacles.

The civil complaint, filed on January 9, goes on to state that: "Scooter Defendants hinder and inhibit Plaintiffs from using the system of sidewalks, crosswalks, transit stops, curb ramps, pedestrian crossings and other walkways, and have actually caused Plaintiffs to use the sidewalks less often." 

If the lawsuit succeeds, it could lead to scooters being banned from San Diego’s sidewalks, curbs, transit stops, and other potentially hazardous locations.

San Diego is a testing ground

We're still in the Wild West period of e-scooters and ridesharing, in which startups like Lime and Bird offer convenience a low cost to their users but appear to skirt responsibility. Technically a user of these services signs up to policies such as wearing a helmet and not blocking public walkways, but it's hard to prevent abuse in practice and the startups don't seem in such a hurry to step in.

Bird bamberg escooter
E-scooters have ended up being dumped into lakes. / © Bird

Naturally companies like Lime and Bird want to expand their services as much as possible, but who takes responsibility for potential risks, and safeguarding of disability access in public spaces? No doubt companies will try to shoulder as little of this responsibility as possible, whereas city officials will have to do their part and pressure scooter companies to be more civic-minded and pull their weight. Disrupting the transport market is one thing, but disrupting public accessibility can put lives at risk.

The Bay Area is the proving ground for a young industry that's pushing the boundaries to see how public opinion forms and social norms develop. Lawsuits such as Montoya et al v. City of San Diego join similar legal efforts in Los Angeles, Denver and San Francisco attempting to curb the reckless growth of e-scooter companies for public safety and environmental reasons.

Are have e-scooters taken over your city? Are they a convenience or a nuisance in your opinion?

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  • Question, is it the placement of the "scooter pens" that hold them, or, customers not putting them back in the proper place. If it is the latter, that would be like suing "McDonald's" because someone threw a McD's bag of trash near but not in a trash can.

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