OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Cheap, portable and fairly unsophisticated to use, electric scooters seemed to explode on Oakland Streets in recent months. While they provide an affordable mode of transportation, they are ending up in places that they do not belong.
“We've been having a fair amount of the e-scooters come into the lake or thrown into the lake rather,” said James Robinson, Executive Director of Lake Merritt Institute, which is in charge the lake’s maintenance. These can be very damaging to our marine environment because they're not natural things that go into the lake.”
He’s concerned that that the damage is coming from the batteries in scooters, operated by both Lime and Bird.
Robinson shared photos with KTVU of scooters that appear to be from both companies submerged in the lake.
In October alone, Robinson said 60 e-scooters were pulled from Lake Merritt. Numbers for November are still be counted.
“Scooters was not something that I thought that I would be taking out of the lake.”
Robinson says the issue has been reported to both "Lime" and "Bird", but so far only "Lime" has sent employees to help remove them.
Volunteers armed with nets have also joined the effort to clean the scooters out of Lake Merritt.
“If they're very far into the lake, this is very problematic because we have to launch a boat,” Robinson said. “It's sad because you come to work every day and you want to do the best you can for the lake and when you have these scooters being thrown into the lake with seemingly no end in sight, it's very concerning.”
Oakland City Council member Rebecca Kaplan led a push to pass an ordinance to develop permits for scooter companies. The Oakland Transportation Department in the process of developing new rules that include banning scooters from being set up along the Lake Merritt running path.
KTVU reached out to both Lime and Bird. We did not hear back from Bird, but Lime issued a statement that said they would implement a "no parking zone" around Lake Merritt to prevent scooters from being parked near the lake. They also claimed they would donate to the Lake Merritt institute, but they did not disclose any amount.
"Currently, our Lime local operations teams do a daily sweep of the lake for scooters. They remove all scooters they find, regardless of which company it is," the company wrote.
"Additionally, each Lime scooter is equipped with GPS, which shows our operations team when a scooter is inside the lake. We immediately deploy our operations teams to collect the scooters when we receive an internal or external report that a scooter is in the lake."
Lime said if a user of their app is found to be responsible that they are removed from their platform. They characterized this type of "vandalism" as "random."
Improperly parked or dumped e-scooters can be reported to Oakland’s non-emergency 311 number or through its online reporting system.
Oakland’s transportation department has been holding public input community meetings as they develop a permitting process for e-scooters.