Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this



By Miriam Raftery

February 12, 2019 (San Diego) – Four disabled activists from San Diego and Spring Valley have filed a lawsuit in federal court locallyMontoya et al v. Bird Rides Inc. et. al, against the city of San Diego as well as Bird, Lime, and Razor scooter companies. The suit alleges that the City and private scooter companies are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act, and state anti-discrimination laws by allowing electric rental scooters to block public sidewalks, curb ramps, crosswalks and transit stops.

“Private scooter companies have been allowed to appropriate the public commons for their own profit, regardless of the impact on the City’s residents,” the suit statesPersons with mobility impairments, including people who use wheelchairs or walkers, and people with significant visual impairments are thereby being denied their right to travel freely and safely on our public walkways.

Named plaintiffs include Alex Montoya, a triple amputeewho lives in San Diego’s East Village and walks with prosthetics, Rex Shirley, a Parkinson’s patient in Mission Beach who relies on a mobility scooter, Philip Pressel, a downtown resident with one leg, and Aaron Gresson, a blind Spring Valley resident.  

The plaintiffs allege that they have frequently had to dodge rental scooters left on the ground and in some cases, have nearly been hit by them. Plaintiffs allege that this has forced them to alter their actions, with some going out less frequently or only when accompanied by someone else.

The suit seeks monetary damages as well as an order enjoining the Scooter Defendants from continuing to operate on the system of sidewalks, crosswalks, curb ramps, transit stops, pedestrian crossings and other walkways in the City of San Diego.

If successful, the suit could establish a precedent for disabled individuals to seek legal redress from other jurisdictions where rental scooters block public access for those with disabilities.


California laws:

CVC 1230 and CVC 1235 and CVC 21229 and AB 604 all make for informative reading. Basically, the California DMV laws do not allow electric (or gas powered) scooters or bicycles to be ridden on a public sidewalk anyway for obvious reasons. Since this is just an infraction, that could be one reason people do it, and police ignore the issue. Bike (street) lanes are okay for them to use though. Respect and common sense can go a long way in these matters. It's the riders who choose to act wild and crazy while zipping along on the sidewalks ignoring pedestrians safety and established rights, sometimes causing severe injuries, who are creating this problem. Not the safe operators needing inexpensive, alternate transportation.

Sidewalk safety

If only sidewalks (and roads) could be shared in a safe, and responsible manner...

The flip side of the safety issue:

In another state a woman is suing Lime Scooters because it required users to ride in the street instead of on sidewalks, and her daughter was hit by a car and is now in a vegetative state:


It seems if they are on sidewalks, it puts the disabled at risk and if they are in the streets, it puts scooter users at risk. So the companies are damned if they do, damned if they don't.

If they make people ride in the streets to protect pedestrians, they should require helmets, which might have saved this young woman's life but she was not wearing one. California recently repealed its mandatory helmet law for e-scooters, a foolish move in my view that puts lives at risk.

Culpability laws

I think some there's merit to the lawsuit. As a full time pedestrian with medical issues, I have encountered similar issues in El Cajon. If the city leaders turn a deaf ear to citizen's concerns and complaints, this is what can happen. I understand the need for some people wanting inexpensive, alternate transportation and most are probably courteous. Yet just a few displaying aberrant behavior can ruin things for everyone.

Ya Good Luck

So those companies don't place the scooters in locations, its random people that go out to collect them and charge them that are doing it. With that said, they are normally placed out of the way. Its people that use them, then just ditch them wherever they feel like ditching them. That is not the fault of the company, but fault of the public, the suit is pointless. Still a good topic though to bring up, but the lawsuit is just wasted time...

Yeah, I'm disabled, this suit makes us look bad.

People are just bitter that young people like us are finding better and easier, more accessible ways to get around.  It's the same people who whine about ride-sharing like Lyft or Uber.  I think people just want us to stay inside forever.  And then they say "just get a job and save up for a car!!!  It's not that hard!!" as if getting a job and saving for a car takes all of 5 seconds and there's a magical car tree where cars cost 5 cents.

Two sides

This issue is a good example of one where there are good points on both sides.  Young people or anyone without vehicles need affordable transportation options, but people in wheelchairs, canes or prosthetic legs have legal rights to be safe on public sidewalks, too.

The challenge is how to do both, and it may be up to the courts to decide where that line will be drawn.How many steps to prevent scooter riders from putting disabled pedestrians at risk are enough?  At what point does the responsibility lie with the scooter rider, not a city or manufacturer?  Who is responsible if a disabled person gets hurt?  Can more be done to create safe spaces for the disabled?

Let's resist the temptation to accuse anyone with needs different than our own of not caring about anybody else.  A blind person surely has a right to walk down a sidewalk without being mowed down.