San Francisco to Ban Mechanized Scooters from City Streets


San Francisco will be halting a popular shared-scooter program according to city officials, while the city works some kinks out of the program and issues new permits.

In March, ride-sharing companies Bird, Lime and Spin all unceremoniously released hundreds of mechanized scooters onto San Francisco streets. Since then the city has received 1,800 complaints about abandoned scooters blocking pathways, doorways and bus stops, as well as complaints about riders riding on sidewalks.

Five hundred scooters have been confiscated by the S.F. Department of Public Works according to the agency’s director, Mohammed Nuru. Now the city has issued multiple cease-and-desist letter to companies for the remaining scooters.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has established a 12-month pilot program under which 1,250 scooters would be allowed to be deployed for six months by a permit-holding company. Depending on its performance during those first six month, a company may deploy an additional 1,250 scooters for a total of 2,500 through 12 months. A firm’s performance is judged on how well they meet city standards.

Under the program companies must satisfy certain requirements laid out by the city. These include enforcing safety measures like the wearing of helmets and the prevention of the riding on sidewalks.

Companies would have to show that they’re safeguarding user information, offer a low-income plan, encourage deployment in under-served communities and insure their riders.

Permit-holding companies would also have to address improper parking, which may include locking scooters to docking stations. Because they can be locked/unlocked through an app on a smartphone, scooters are often abandoned on sidewalks.

The cost of a permit includes a $5,000 application fee and a $25,000 annual fee. Companies would also have to create a $10,000 endowment to cover costs associated with property repair and maintenance for the city.

“San Francisco supports transportation innovation, but it cannot come at the price of public safety,” S.F. City Attorney Dennis Herrera wrote in a statement. “This permit program represents a thoughtful, coordinated and effective approach to ensure that San Francisco strikes the right balance. We can have innovation, but it must keep our sidewalks safe and accessible for all pedestrians. We can have convenience, but it can’t sacrifice privacy and equity along the way.”

“This program is a strong step forward. It provides the framework to ensure that companies operating in the public right of way are doing so lawfully and are accountable for their products.”

Firms will have until June 4 to remove scooters from streets. If they don’t, the scooters can be impounded and companies may face fines of up to $100 per scooter.

Photo by the SFMTA