Scooters Temporarily Removed From SF as New Regs Take Effect

Lime scooters, re-positioned from San Francisco to Lake Merritt in Oakland. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Lime scooters, re-positioned from San Francisco to Lake Merritt in Oakland. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

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Today is the first day of San Francisco’s scooter ban.

Okay, it’s not a ban officially–the city is just forcing companies to remove their machines from city sidewalks while they fill out permit applications.

From SFMTA’s site:

As part of their permit application, companies must demonstrate how they will minimize their impact on San Francisco’s sidewalks, while maximizing transparency to the public. Specifically, operators would need to provide user education, be insured, share trip data with the city, have a privacy policy that safeguards user information, offer a low-income plan, and submit a proposed service area plan for city approval. Operators also will need to provide a plan that addresses sidewalk riding and sidewalk parking.

The city is also imposing a cap on how many scooters can operate in the city. “For the first six months of the pilot, a total of 1,250 scooters may be permitted. If the first six months are successful, the total number of scooters may increase to 2,500 in months seven through 12,” posted the agency on its site.

It’s impossible to check every street, but Streetsblog took the identical tour it took in April and confirmed that Hayes Valley, at least, is scooter free. Scooters are popping up in other markets (Oakland notably, as in the lead image near Lake Merritt) and other cities that have yet to officially regulate the devices. One source close to the industry said some companies are considering abandoning San Francisco altogether and focusing on friendlier markets.

Streetsblog reached out to the three main companies, Lime, Bird, and Spin. “All Lime scooters available through our platform were removed yesterday from San Francisco by our locally hired, in-house SF operations team. They are currently in the process of being redeployed to other markets, or have been redeployed already,” wrote a spokesperson for Lime. “All Birds are off the street in SF and we are submitting our permit application tomorrow,” wrote a Bird official in an email to Streetsblog. (Spin has not yet replied, but is presumably taking similar steps).

“I think this is good. Oakland needs more non-car options. Scooters would be amazing there for getting from homes to BART,” wrote Matt Brezina, bike advocate and a supporter of scooters.

Still, as in San Francisco, some in the East Bay are taking a negative view of the machines, as illustrated in this picture taken in West Oakland:

A scooter near the West Oakland BART station. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
A scooter near the West Oakland BART station. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

CBS is also reporting unwillingly amphibious scooters in Lake Merritt.

That also doesn’t mean there aren’t still a few scooters left in San Francisco. There are privately owned scooters, of course, and a few that scofflaws have brought back in. “Any remaining scooters found on city streets have been remotely turned off and are in the final process of being collected, or were likely ridden into San Francisco from other Bay Area cities that currently have Lime scooters and bikes, such as Oakland and San Jose,” wrote Lime.

“There may be a few stragglers out there, which are subject to impounding and/or citation,” wrote Paul Rose, an SFMTA spokesman, in an email. “If anyone spots a scooter in the public right of way, they should contact 311 to let us know.”

Alon Levy, meanwhile, wrote in The Bay City Beacon that San Francisco is making a mistake by being so firm with the scooter companies. “The real problem is not clutter or safety,” he writes. “When [S.F. Supervisor] Aaron Peskin is calling the executives of the companies providing these vehicles “spoiled brats,” he is sending a clear message: if you want to provide transportation within the city of San Francisco, you must provide cars.” Wired‘s Alex Davies is also bemoaning the scooter ban, and calling on San Francisco to redesign its streets with scooters, bikes, and other non-car mobility in mind.

Are you still seeing scooters rolling about? Do you miss the new machines? Let us know what you think below.

  • gneiss

    Eagerly awaiting the massive reduction in injuries and deaths of pedestrians coming with the removal of scooters from our streets.

  • hailfromsf

    As someone who cannot ride a bike, the scooters were a nice alternative. Thanks everyone.

  • saimin

    San Francisco is realizing how much damage Uber and Lyft have done to the city and are taking it out on the scooter and bike share companies instead

  • mx

    I continue to not understand this at all. Permits are good, and scooter operators should have them to use public space. But there’s no reason other than a dominance contest by our city attorney why the scooters can’t stay until the permit program actually exists. If this was actually about coming up with a workable solution for transportation rather than demonstrating the existence of the law, the scooters should have been left out until permit operations started.

    The city also issued pilot program permits for, off the top of my head, tech shuttles, Chariot, and Scoot. In none of those cases did it demand all operators cease first and threaten operators with the denial of permits if they didn’t comply. SFMTA managed to roll out commuter shuttle permits legally without demanding Google stop transporting its employees for a month. Why is this different?

  • crazyvag

    Massive like it’s even worse for pedestrians than cars?

  • Stuart

    But there’s no reason other than a dominance contest by our city attorney why the scooters can’t stay until the permit program actually exists.

    Agreed. All I’ve been able to come up with is that the city wants to make a strong showing to send a strong message to the companies that they need to actually cooperate with the city? But I’m not sure why they couldn’t have waited to see if anyone actually fought against the permitting process first.

    SFMTA managed to roll out commuter shuttle permits legally without demanding Google stop transporting its employees for a month. Why is this different?

    I suspect there’s an important legal distinction here in that the scooters are a rental business that is being operated on the sidewalks, which presumably opens them up to city regulation.

    I’ve heard from several people that the commuter shuttle program is entirely voluntary because the city doesn’t actually have any legal authority to prevent shuttles from driving on public roads. If a company decided to withdraw from the program, the only thing the city has the authority to do is ticket them for stopping at bus stops without permission. That would turn it into a long, drawn-out, enforcement problem (see also: city vs. Uber/Lyft). They cannot legally, say, impound all the buses for stopping there, the way they can impound scooters “abandoned” on the public right-of-way, so the city has a lot more leverage in the scooter case.

  • Stuart

    A more charitable view would be that SF has realized how much damage Uber and Lyft have done to the city, don’t want it to happen again, but actually have the legal authority to do more in this case.

  • Cynara2

    Cars don’t drive on the sideWALK.

  • Cynara2

    “Wired‘s Alex Davies is also bemoaning the scooter ban, and calling on San Francisco to redesign its streets with scooters, bikes, and other non-car mobility in mind.” This is ridiculous. This is San Francisco, famous for our hills. It will not be leveled to the ground to suit some guy from New York who came “out to California” and decided he could change San Francisco to be more to his liking. He is not forced to live here.

  • Cynara2

    Skyrocketing pedestrian deaths in this country are an excellent reason to ban these things from sidewalks. It is a national crisis. San Francisco is a walking city. All these alternative transportation and tech companies are just going to have to face reality. Walkers come first.

  • Stuart
  • Stuart

    to ban these things from sidewalks

    They are already banned from blocking, or being operated on, sidewalks by CA law. This is banning their rental, whether operated lawfully or now. But I’m sure you already knew that, and don’t care, because when it comes to any form of transportation except cars, you consistenly advocate for punishing everyone using that form of transportation for the law-breaking of some.

    Skyrocketing pedestrian deaths […] is a national crisis

    You forgot to mention that ~all of those deaths were caused by people driving cars. And yet, as usual, your only mention of cars in the comments here is to pretend they aren’t a problem.

  • mx

    I grew up at the top of an SF hill and redesigning our streets with more non-car mobility in mind sounds pretty good to me. That, of course, includes walking and public transit too. We’re talking about some painted lines on the ground; nobody is leveling Nob Hill here.

  • spragmatic

    I’m sure nobody is studying it, but anecdotal evidence from the paramedics on our streets are that about 4 people a day were crashing badly enough on those that 911 was being called.
    No, I don’t know the details of any of the crashes, whether they were solo or sidewalk or cars or bikes involved. It would be interesting to know though.
    Maybe someone at streetsblog can sunshine the records and do a study.

  • Cynara2

    All those deaths are caused by vehicles. These are just more vehicles. And you are wrong. More and more walkers are being killed by cyclists. That is not included in the statistics. What a ridiculous thing to say that I advocate for cars. Absurd. I advocate for walker safety. How could you conclude that I am advocating for cars when I wrote that walker deaths by vehicle are skyrocketing and it is a national crisis…That is just crazy.

  • Cynara2

    I never said what you are accusing me of and you have no right to tell me what I should do. Walker deaths are skyrocketing in this country and these additional vehicles are only making it worse. Walkers have nothing to do with your war with cars. You have no right to bring more danger to us. It is clear that, because your answer to every walker concern is the excuse of cars, that you are taking your issues with cars out on walkers. You are not our friends.

  • Cynara2

    It does not include walking. Be honest. It includes destroying walking. A week and a half ago two cyclists took out four walkers on Market Street. It will be ignored. Nothing will be done about it. Sidewalks are gone, full of vehicular traffic. None of these riders will let walkers cross the street. Crosswalks are nullified. The “painted lines on the ground” are crosswalks that are ignored by cyclists. You really are not for non car mobility. You are ignoring walkers.

  • p_chazz

    I love Uber and Lyft. They are soooooo much better than taxis.Where I live, cabs would often not bother to show up. Once a cab driver told me to get out of his cab because I told him to take one street instead of another! The whole taxicab regulatory structure is to enrich medallion holders not provide good customer.

  • Cynara2

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7t7Py81Vmg&t=440s This is how great your non car mobility is for walkers. They are vicious to us. You are not any better than cars. But, you do not have the will to face reality.

  • mx

    I don’t know why I’m bothering to respond, but you realize dozens of people would be dead if someone did that with a car, right?

  • Frank Kotter

    I could write that pedestrians deaths are from ‘stuff’ but we could use our brains and determine that ‘stuff’ really doesn’t offer any guidance as to causation. ‘Vehicles’ is just as worthless as ‘stuff’. The cause is cars. You type thousands and thousands of words to somehow obfuscate this simple reality. Why?

  • Cynara2

    That’s why cars don’t do that. Cars are no excuse for this treatment of walkers by cyclists.

  • Cynara2

    That is not the case. It is the case that cyclists will not be acountable for their behaviour towards walkers. Cars do not excuse it. If cyclists want to blame their bad treatment of walkers on cars, the situation will remain bad. But, believe me, I understand that cyclists really do not care about walker safety. You just want to obsess on cars.

  • Cynara2

    Oh, and these guys did take out four walkers on Market Street about a week and a half ago. And this will still be ignored. But, there is no reason for cyclists to care. And you think that walkers care if we get taken out by a car or a cyclist,,,wrong. It makes no difference to us and it is crazy that you think it does.

  • Stuart

    You just want to obsess […]

    Says the person whose comments on this article about electric scooter rental have been almost exclusively off-topic complaints about cyclists.

  • Frank Kotter

    Can you quantify ‘safety’?

  • John French

    The hard caps on number of scooter rental companies and number of scooters per company are crazy to me. A licensing program is a good idea to ensure that:

    – when scooters are causing problems (parked blocking sidewalks, ridden on sidewalks in pedestrian traffic), the scooter companies can be held responsible and fined, giving them an incentive to train their users and incentivize good behavior.
    – distribution of scooters covers all neighborhoods, not only wealthy ones
    – scooters are accessible to as many people as possible

    But a hard cap doesn’t serve those goals (and makes scooters less accessible to everyone). If the goal is to avoid “dumping” of thousands of unused scooters on the streets, it should set a minimum usage figure (rides per scooter per day), not a hard cap on the number of scooters. If there are thousands of scooters on the streets but they’re all being used, how is that a problem?

  • crazyvag

    The cities have to accept the fact that they failed up accommodate non car residents. When you provide a 6ft sidewalk to non car transport, you end up leaving bikes, scooters and pedestrians fitting for that also amount of space. How about calling for an emergent decre and remove one lane of traffic/parking to provide more space.

    Think of all the pedestrian lives, bike lives and scooter lives that you could save. Maybe focus only streets that have 5 lanes for cars first.

    Since the bottleneck are the 5 lanes ok Bay Bridge and 101, none of that will impact bridge capacity anyway.

  • crazyvag

    Caps are fine as long as some shows me the formula behind the number. Something that includes number of residents, workers, average walking distance to available scooter and provision to adjust the number based on the data. The 500 limit sounds like in came out of the same ass that gave us 1500 taxi limit, ignoring how long it takes to find a cab at 2am on a Friday night in Mission.

    If companies are to provide data, then we works perfectly should insist on formula on how it will be used to control the limits.

  • Linternauta

    Catch me if you can, I have hacked my scooter to reach 40 miles an hour… See you while you bitch as I pass flying.

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