City approves regulations on Segway tour businesses

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego City Council voted 8-1 Tuesday to tentatively approve regulations for Segway tour businesses that operate within the city.

The regulations would require Segway tour businesses to file an operational permit with the city’s Risk Management Department and pay a $53 operator fee. Each business would also have to obtain commercial liability insurance for $1 million per incident and $2 million aggregate.

One Segway tour business owner, Bridgette Bisogno, said having to pay increased insurance costs and indemnifying the city would put her out of business. Bisogno, the owner of Adventures in San Diego, said she already pays for commercial liability insurance and makes participants sign a waiver and felt unfairly targeted by the regulations.

“I cannot just raise tour prices,” Bisogno said. “I am competing in a market, in the San Diego market, one of the most saturated markets in the world. I’ve been successful.”

Bisogno also argued that there’s been no public outcry to regulate Segways in the same way as dockless electric scooters. Most scooter companies, she said, are the product of venture capital investment and are not small businesses like Adventures in San Diego.

City staff noted that the city of Coronado has similar regulations to Segway tour businesses but does not require them to indemnify the city from potential lawsuits.

“I know it’s a hardship,” said Councilman Scott Sherman. “Having been in business for 27 years, there’s a lot of things that the city has charged me for and I wasn’t happy about, but I had to pay it to stay in business. Our job is protecting the taxpayer here, and I think this is what we need to do.”

A city working group began drafting the regulations last year after the city approved a settlement for a woman who suffered a shattered pelvis during a Segway tour sued the city in 2015. Regina Capobianco suffered the injury after riding over a patch of rough street during a tour in La Jolla and falling from the two-wheeled device.

Capobianco filed a claim for damages in 2016 and sued the city when that claim was rejected. During the lawsuit’s period of discovery, it was revealed that the relevant tour company lacked insurance and its owner had few assets.

In June 2018, the city paid Capobianco a $1.7 million settlement, with $200,000 of the payout going to her husband because her injury harmed their marriage.

In October 2018, the council’s Budget and Government Efficiency Committee approved the regulations but directed city staff to discuss the potential ramifications with Segway tour business owners. That outreach resulted in the city lowering the required insurance from $2 million per incident and $4 million aggregate to $1 million and $2 million, respectively.

City Councilwoman Barbara Bry, the only member of the council to vote against the regulations, said she couldn’t support the ordinance because the city does not currently regulate similar businesses that offer bike and kayaking tours the same way.

“Our goal in sending this to a working group was to try to come up with something that would be fair to both the industry and the city and I appreciate all the outreach efforts you’ve done,” Bry told city staffers. “But I really don’t want to do something today that hurts small business.”

The council is required to vote on the ordinance a second time to ratify it, per the city charter. The council has not yet set a date for a second vote.

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