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 in 2018 at Townsend and Lusk. Photo: Walk SF's "Scooters Behaving Badly" page
Taken in 2018 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.

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