Ride-sharing, bike-sharing, and now scooter-sharing: Rentable electric scooters are popping up all over the place, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and at least 20 other cities across the US. Millions of dollars in funding have been poured in to a number of scooter startups including Bird, Lime, and Spin, and the dockless two-wheeled vehicles are proving popular with users. Public officials, not so much; NBC News reports that Santa Monica officials were "flummoxed" when hundreds of e-scooters appeared in the city with little advance notice. And some residents are concerned, too: At a public meeting this month in Santa Monica, one concerned citizen said pedestrians have become like "bowling pins" as users, often teens, ride scooters erratically on sidewalks and then leave them strewn about wherever.
In a battle similar to the one that has been raging between scooter companies and city officials in San Francisco, Santa Monica filed criminal charges against Bird for regulation violations including operating without a business license; the company has agreed to a list of demands and will pay $300,000 in fines. But that's not much for a company that has raised more than $400 million since its founding last year, and scooter startups don't seem likely to go anywhere as investors and tech columnists alike jump on board. Sources tell CNN Bird is now valued at $2 billion, and Uber has teamed with Lime, the second scooter startup to be valued at more than a billion dollars. In LA, particularly, many believe scooters will be a big hit as an easy (users can rent one with a smartphone app) and cheap (15 cents per minute) way to get around the city without a car. (Read more scooters stories.)