Walk San Francisco Creates “Scooters Behaving Badly” Facebook Album

Advocacy group hears mounting complaints about scooters cluttering the sidewalks

A scooter blocking the sidewalk at Hyde and Grove. Photo:  from Walk SF's "Scooters Behaving Badly" album.
A scooter blocking the sidewalk at Hyde and Grove. Photo: from Walk SF's "Scooters Behaving Badly" album.

Walk San Francisco, in response to a number of complaints from its members about scooters on the sidewalks, is demanding that Bird, Lime, and Spin–purveyors of app-based electric scooter rentals–take action. Walk SF has also created a Facebook photo album for people to post images of Scooters creating a hazard.

From the Walk SF announcement:

Walk San Francisco, the 20-year-old organization that advocates for safe streets and sidewalks, sent a letter on April 11 to the three dockless scooter companies — Bird, Lime, and Spin — currently operating in San Francisco, urging them to take immediate action to follow California Vehicle Code 21235, which prohibits riding motorized scooters on sidewalks and parking them in a way that blocks pedestrian mobility.

“San Francisco’s sidewalks must remain a safe, protected space for people to walk. Suddenly, motorized vehicles are zooming along the sidewalks. That’s unsafe, and it’s illegal,” said Walk SF’s executive director Jodie Medeiros in a prepared statement.

The release also says that “Walking home from his 63rd birthday dinner, Hayes Valley resident Scott Polizzi ended up taking a trip to the emergency room after tripping over a dockless motorized scooter.”

Streetsblog spoke with Polizzi by telephone. “There was a Lime scooter parked in the middle of the sidewalk and I went to move it and I tripped and fell and broke my toe,” he said, adding that the scooter was heavier than he expected. The incident happened last Saturday evening on a sidewalk near the AgeSong senior living facility in Hayes Valley.

Polizzi said he regularly sees scooters haphazardly discarded on the sidewalk and he fears for senior citizens trying to navigate around them, which is why he was trying to move one.

A scooter in front of Age Song. Photo: Scott Polizzi
A scooter in front of AgeSong. Photo: Scott Polizzi

Streetsblog reached out to Bird, Lime, and Spin. Bird spokesman Kenneth Baer replied promptly with the following statement:

Bird has been operating in San Francisco, in accordance with all the laws and regulations on the books, for just over two weeks, and the people of this city have enthusiastically embraced this new transit option. In this short time, riders have traveled more than 50,000 miles.

Baer wrote that the company has set up a Save Our Sidewalks Pledge website, asking all dockless scooter and bike companies to pick up their vehicles: “…we have committed to picking Birds up every night, only deploying enough Birds to meet rider demand, and paying the city $1 per vehicle a day to fund bike lanes, shared infrastructure, and safety campaigns. If the city wants to create a new regulatory structure, we look forward to working with Walk SF along with many other community groups and officials in San Francisco as we develop a framework that works for everyone.”

As Streetsblog pointed out in a previous post, many bike advocates feel the reaction to the scooters is somewhat overblown, especially when weighed against all the other hazards on our streets and sidewalks. As one bike advocate put it, the scooters are new, so they get noticed. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is sitting the scooter debate out for now.

Personally, I’m a bit mystified by the reaction to the scooters. I also walk every day in San Francisco and Oakland and, while I’ve seen a few scooters, I don’t understand how they jump out as a problem worthy of new laws and regulations (which seems to be where this is headed). I mentioned this to Polizzi and he suggested that the companies are dumping lots of scooters in his neighborhood, Hayes Valley.

So I took a walk this afternoon through the heart of Hayes Valley, from Hayes and Van Ness to the AgeSong home and took note of any scooters and/or other obstructions to the pedestrian right of way. There were a couple of scooters stacked neatly against buildings, but nothing that could be construed as a sidewalk obstruction by any stretch of the imagination. There was, however, a car stopped in the crosswalk on Franklin (for at least two cycles of the light) as seen below:

This guy hung out in the crosswalk for at least two cycles of the light.
This guy hung out in the crosswalk for at least two cycles of the light.

In addition, there was a knocked-over traffic cone in the middle of the sidewalk and a sidewalk garden complete with large rocks and a prickly cactus that seemed a bigger and potentially more painful trip-hazard than any scooter.

A sidewalk garden with rocks and a cactus

Whether scooters represent an urgent and unique problem or not, at least it’s not too difficult to see how they could become an issue for seniors and the disabled, and it’s good that at least one company seems to be taking pro-active action.

“…Walk SF and Bird share many of the same goals: we want to help San Franciscans get around this great city easily, while reducing traffic and carbon emissions,” wrote Bird’s Baer, in his email to Streetsblog. “We are also passionate about protecting the right of way.”

  • Wow, a cool take. Nice job.

  • mx

    I just took my first ride on a Spin scooter (after one out of service, two saying they’re already in use (someone’s going to be paying $.15/min for that), and one low battery) and noticed they added a “rate how the last person parked it” feature. You give a thumbs up/thumbs down, and then it reminds you to not dump it in the middle of the sidewalk yourself. Seems like a little bit of an effort to apply social pressure to not be a jerk.

    Now if only I could get over my certainly that I will fall on my face if I get it up to speed.

  • 94103er

    Haven’t seen a single one in Glen Park (I’m a 94131er these days).

    If I ever have a chance to hear the locals gripe about these things, I’ll be more than happy to ask, point blank, how many times this week they’ve blocked the sidewalk with their car.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Scooters are fine in a bike lane. That’s why bikes have bells. It’s a polite warning, and any slower moving scooter or pedestrian can just get out of the way. This works fine if people are used to the system and it isn’t too crowded. When it’s too crowded, bikes have to slow down, just like cars do. There are no hard and fast rules here. Being polite and considerate to your fellow travelers is a big help.

  • borngiantsfan

    Roger, you started off well but degraded into the absurd by calling a “sidewalk garden” (which is basically a small square around a tree) a hazard. It sounds like the small percentage of vocal people in our community garden who are objecting to one of the members growing Nopales in his plot because they are afraid a child may fall into his plot and get hurt by the cactus. My response – teach your children to stay out of someone else garden plot.

    I also thought it interesting how your story spoke of other hazards (traffic cone, cactus, car in crosswalk), but didn’t mention the cyclists running red lights or stop signs while pedestrians were in the sidewalk – something I see every day in this city. So I interpret that your viewpoint is biased.

    The scooters are a hazard in the middle of the sidewalk. Are there a lot of them, no. but it doesn’t take a lot to cause problems on crowded sidewalks. Walking to Soundbox Saturday evening there was a scooter parked in the middle of the sidewalk on Hayes St. The sidewalk was a little crowded and the pedestrians bottle-necked and they tried to maneuver around it. One older woman caught her handbag on the scooter suddenly stopping her and the person behind her ran into her. Nobody fell or was hurt, but someone easily could have tripped.

    So you may treat it as a lesser evil than the other examples you sited, but you have a case of the “what-about’s” that now plague our society. When someone points out something wrong, you respond with “what about the car in the crosswalk?” That doesn’t make the scooters in the sidewalk ok. It just shows that you can’t make a logical argument as to why the scooters are ok in the sidewalk – so you deflect to another problem. Siting another wrong doesn’t make the first wrong suddenly right.

  • Cynara2

    Terrible and very common attitude…walkers can just get out of YOUR way! Wrong. You need to get out of our way. It is not right that walkers have to constantly take cover from cyclists. Machines defer to walkers, not vice versa. Cyclists are ruining walking.

  • Cynara2

    Make sure you ask the lady with the guide dog or the man with the white cane that very, very loudly in front of everyone.

  • Vooch

    solution to scooters cluttering up sidewalk is reallocate curbside vcard storage to scooters

    I‘d say about 10% of car storage spaces could be reallocated to scooter storage

  • Vooch

    do you support reallocating roadway space for protected bike lanes ?

  • Bernard Finucane

    That’s just ridiculous, we’re talking about a bike lane here.

  • Cynara2

    No, I absolutely do not. We have them in my town. The most dangerous area to walk is by the bike lane. It is crawling with law enforcement vehicles on heavy riding days. It makes the cyclists worse. It does not take them off the sidewalk and they have ZERO regard for the enhanced crosswalks, with the amber overhead lights flashing and the motorists waiting for us to cross. At the end of the long block, they fly over the wheelchair cut ins, onto the sidewalk, forcing walkers on the sidewalk to run, literally, run, out of their way. They refuse to obey the big RED SIGNS WITH FOUR LETTERS ON THEM. No, no more bike lanes until you can have some regard for the lives of walkers. They cost a fortune and they make walkers less safe than before.

  • Cynara2

    The fact that you believe it is ridiculous for walkers to be disgusted by your “GET OUT OF MY WAY” strategy says it all. It is a terrible way to treat walkers. And a bike lane seems to encourage you to blast illegally through the crosswalk.

  • p_chazz

    Figures that bicyclists would be allies of scooters, since they are both riders of wheeled vehicles who intrude onto sidewalks.

  • Roger R.

    Thanks for posting. Obviously, I’m a big fan of Walk SF; I think my point got lost somehow. I don’t think it’s okay to have scooters in the middle of or driving on the sidewalk. I wrote:

    “I don’t understand how they jump out as a problem ****worthy of new laws and regulations**** (which seems to be where this is headed).”

    It’s already illegal to ride a motorized vehicle on the sidewalks. It’s already illegal to block the pedestrian ROW. The city has already impounded scooters that were placed in the ped ROW. Recovering an impounded scooter is very expensive and the scooter business model can’t possibly survive if they are continually scooped up and impounded. Again, all under existing regulations.

    The cactus thing was mostly meant as a joke. I didn’t realize it was a contentious issue in your neighborhood. That said, as someone who has spent some time in Arizona and had a painful meeting or two with those thorns, I don’t really think it’s the best choice for a public ROW.

  • SF Guest

    >As Streetsblog pointed out in a previous post, many bike advocates feel the reaction to the scooters is somewhat overblown, especially when weighed against all the other hazards on our streets and sidewalks.<

    The legality of riding a scooter on a sidewalk was never in question, and I fully support DPW impounding any sidewalk obstruction that is conducive to a trip-and-fall hazard. These companies should be required to provide docking stations so their vehicles are not left anywhere which constitutes a pedestrian safety hazard.

    Walk SF clearly understands this, and I would have expected the SFBC to follow their lead instead of taking no position.

  • Stuart

    Why would you expect SFBC to take a position on scooters? Scooters aren’t bikes, and sidewalks aren’t bike infrastructure (yes, someone will reply and complain about people biking on the sidewalk, but SFBC does have a very clear position on that: don’t).

    As a member of both Walk SF and SFBC it makes sense to me that the pedestrian advocacy group is focused on issues specific to the sidewalk, and SFBC would be uninvolved. Just because they have common ground on many issues doesn’t mean they have to fight all of the same battles (and in fact it would be silly if they did since then they should just be one organization).

  • SF Guest

    Perhaps I’m confusing SFBC with Streetsblog which is a publication advocating among other things pedestrian safety even though all SFBC members are also pedestrians and several are very vocal about car storage on sidewalks.

    I wouldn’t say SFBC is uninvolved since Bird is offering $1 per vehicle per day to city governments for bike lanes, safe riding outreach, and bike lane maintenance and urging its competitors to follow their pledge.

    Your point is duly noted however the SFBC won’t involve itself with pedestrian safety exclusive to sidewalks.