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Monday, March 19, 2012

Scoot Networks, Hyped Scooter-Sharing Service, Might Run Afoul of State Law

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2012 at 4:37 PM

click to enlarge scooter2.jpg

It's always a pleasure to see business blogs' miasmal coverage of Bay Area start-ups pierced by a ray of real journalism. On this note, we have SF Appeal to thank for asking an important question about a much-hyped new scooter-sharing service in San Francisco: Is it legal?

As the Appeal reports, it appears that the business model of Scoot Networks, an urban scooter subscription service that functions in a manner similar to car-sharing company Zipcar, might conflict with state laws requiring that operators of motorcycles and scooters get a special driver's license.

California Department of Motor Vehicles spokesperson Jessica Gonzalez tells the Appeal that users of Scoot Networks "would require" the special license, which is obtained through an application process that involves a driving test or classes.

The sticking point here appears to be whether a Scoot Networks subscriber falls under an exemption for the license for people who rent a vehicle for less than 48 hours. This is the position of company CEO Michael Keating, but Gonzalez says the ongoing subscription "overrides" the time limit for the exemption -- an opinion she says is seconded by the California Highway Patrol.

Keating tells the Appeal, "It would be a real pity if this thing got squelched because some kind of mid-level CHP thought that this didn't meet his or her idea of how California vehicle code should be enforced." He also notes that company representatives personally show users how to drive the scooters on their first ride.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, says there might be a way to "get the company in compliance" -- though it's unclear how.

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