Stiffer Fines for Illegally Parking a 20-pound Scooter than a 20,000-pound Truck?

SFMTA's new fine structure has some safe-streets advocates fuming

Taken last April at Townsend and Lusk. Photo: Walk SF's "Scooters Behaving Badly" page
Taken last April at Townsend and Lusk. Photo: Walk SF's "Scooters Behaving Badly" page

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Earlier this month the SFMTA’s permit program for scooter shares went into effect, effectively banning Bird, Spin and Lime scooters from the city until and unless the companies get permits. But once they do, what happens if the companies don’t or can’t follow the new regulations, and scooters continue to be placed illegally on the sidewalk? The SFMTA has decided to set fines as much as $500 per violation.

From the San Francisco Examiner’s story on the decision:

Penalties against e-scooter companies will be hiked from $100 to $500 for violating provisions of the permit program, after a unanimous vote by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors on Tuesday. Those violations include scooters “parked in a manner inconsistent with the permit.”

The fine (details here) would be charged to the scooter company, not the end user, clarified Chairwoman Cheryl Brinkman at yesterday’s meeting. And while that may be a relief to scooter fans, it means scooter companies will have the fines upped to $500 on the third violation among its entire fleet.  SFMTA director Ed Reiskin said the fees were set high so that they are not “…seen as a cost of doing business for a scofflaw company.”

The reaction from the pro-scooter camp wasn’t subtle:

Munroe, who identifies himself as an advocate for alternative transportation, also posted this photo of a truck parked in a San Francisco bike lane to nail home the point:

Photo: from Dale Munroe's twitter feed
Photo: from Dale Munroe’s twitter feed

“They’re so keenly aware of the minuscule fine for blocking bike lanes that one driver I talked to told me he intentionally parked in the bike lane away from the hydrant because a hydrant fine is like $500 vs. $100 for bike lanes,” wrote Munroe about the above photo.

The scooter fine increase was voted on with little notification, leading scooter advocates to cry foul. Only one was present at yesterday’s SFMTA board meeting to comment on the vote. Streetsblog reached out to Lime and Spin and received no reply about the fines. Bird wrote that it officially has “no comment,” at least for now.

Meanwhile, the appearance of scooters on the sidewalks of San Francisco has caused friction inside the safe-streets community. Word has it the membership of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is split on the issue, with about half in favor of the city’s stern regulatory stance, and the other half opposed. Walk San Francisco, of course, has come out forcefully against the machines, insofar as they were dumped, unregulated, on the sidewalks (the lead image is from the group’s “Scooters Behaving Badly” Facebook page). E-scooter boosters see them as an alternative to driving that was helping to get Ubers, Lyfts and potentially private cars off the road, by offering another non-car solution to last-mile problems and short trips.

Without retreading the question of whether a permit process is necessary (if that’s possible) where do you stand on the fines? Are they too high? Or is this just a sign that fines for violations by cars and trucks are just way too low? Post your opinions below.

  • Up to $500 fines for the third and beyond. Sometimes I wonder how the city sets fines so erratically. It’s like we penalize smaller stuff more than automobiles. The exception would be disabled parking violations, which I highly support the stiff $800+ fines.

    For example, it costs $120 for a Muni fare evasion, but the following parking violations are so much cheaper, but has a larger impact than evading a bus fare.
    $110 red zone
    $109 downtown tow away
    $110 removing chalk from tires
    $100 driving through parade
    $79 driving red transit lane
    $84/$73 meter expired
    $110 fire hydrant
    $104 railroad tracks
    $110 blocking intersection
    $110 parking in a crosswalk
    $110 driving a commercial passenger vehicle in restricted area
    $84 overtime in a green zone
    $110 white zone
    $98 yellow zone
    $66 hogging 2nd space in city parking lot

  • Parque_Hundido

    $110 for removing chalk from your tire?

    The city has made it illegal to clean your own vehicle?

  • Cynara2

    These are not just parking on the sidewalk, they are driving on it. How much will the City eventually shell out for ADA violations…I wonder. There could be a huge class action suit about this.

  • I hope that was a joke. The chalk is what parking officers use to mark cars for time limit zones and those who park longer than 72 hours.

  • Sounds like vandalism.

  • Parque_Hundido

    DPT should record the license plates or use photo/video to compile evidence.

    Chalk marks are hit and miss at best. Easy to remove and easy for someone else to mischievously fake.

    I don’t blame anyone who removes them. And in fact if you move the vehicle a few yards the mark vanishes anyway.

    Oh, and the 72 hour rule is not enforced unless someone calls it into DPT. Effectively it is the street cleaning roster that drives tickets for “loitering”, and that is usually weekly. A block near me has no street cleaning and no RPP – you can leave a vehicle there for weeks with no problem, and people do.

  • ace363636

    The fundamental difference between a scooter and a commercial vehicle is of course the likely reality that the commercial vehicle is engaged in some sort of economic activity, whereas the scooter is there as a luxury. Business got along just fine without the scooters, but try having a thriving city without trucking.

  • mx

    I mean, try having a thriving city without sewers, but we put sewage where it belongs, in pipes under the street, instead of leaving it in the middle of traffic. Trucks are surely important, and businesses need to be able to receive deliveries, but the fact that a beer truck is engaged in “economic activity” isn’t a justification for endangering others.

    Would you feel differently if people used scooters for economic activity too? Most people aren’t joyriding (and even that’s an economic activity if you’re a scooter company); they’re riding to shops and restaurants and jobs and meetings.

    By your logic, I suppose we should outfit all the beer trucks with lights and sirens so us mere uneconomic mortals can pull over and let them proceed to their economic activity unhindered.

  • Tom Peters

    Trucks parking where ever they damn well please is certainly not a necessity. We need cameras to automate the writing of tickets to trucks just stopping where ever they want. They stop on busy streets and reduce 3 lanes to 2 and back up traffic. Trucks could also be forced to make deliveries at night or off hours.

    If someone uses a scooter to get to work, that is an economic activity.

  • kschang

    >DPT should record the license plates or use photo/video to compile evidence.

    Yeah, but that cost money. There are automatic license readers with meter-precision GPS locators that automatically records EVERY parked car the meter-scooter drove past. But they cost about 19000 PER VEHICLE. (slight discount if you want a whole fleet done)

    Furthermore do you really want that kind of intrusion into our lives? Do you know where the data is going?

  • Mountain Viewer

    There is one difference worth highlighting, unlike cars/trucks escooter parking tickets are not issued to the rider/driver but to the company operating the escooters I wish the same could be done with Uber/Lyft b/c their service encourages parking in bike lanes; patrons have the expectation to be picked up/dropped off exactly where they want….bike lanes be damned.,