Dockless scooters appeared in March to much controversy, and their sudden absence this week has created a sort of transportation armistice.
That’s due to City Attorney Dennis Herrera ordering scooters off the streets by June 4 while the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority accepts applications for its one-year pilot permit program. If the three major companies — Lime, Bird, and Spin — do not comply with the temporary ban, scooters found by city agencies will be confiscated and used as evidence, Herrera said at a press conference in May.
Since e-scooters landed on city streets three months ago, officials have received 1,800 complaints about them blocking sidewalks, bus stops, and doorways. This flood of civic ire spurred Herrera to issue the cease-and-desist letters — and the Department of Public Works has collected about 500 wayward scooters ever since they appeared.
Inconvenience aside, scooters have even become another symbol of displacement and anger against tech companies that “move fast and break things,” a once-proud Facebook motto that spread. Just one week after the pilot program was announced, tenants-rights activists blocked at least nine tech buses at Valencia and 16th streets using a pile of e-scooters they collected and set ablaze, the Examiner reported.
Through the upcoming pilot program, the city will settle what permanent circumstances could allow the e-scooters to become a positive, emission-free addition to the transportation network as the companies touted.
Under the program, companies are responsible for ensuring their customers abide by local and state laws, like riding on the street and wearing helmets. In turn, their customers must clearly know the data that is being collected by the companies, and be offered a chance to opt out.
Up to 1,250 scooters will be permitted for deployment in the first six months, and should things go well, another 1,250 may be added for the remaining six months. After that first year, the SFMTA will decide whether to keep the program, change it, expand it, or kill it altogether.
And it doesn’t come cheap — although Lime has reportedly just received a cash infusion of $250 million, Axios reports. The SFMTA is charging $5,000 for the application fee, $25,000 for the permit fee, and another $10,000 for backup enforcement costs. Only five companies will be chosen — and the bad behavior shown during the unexpected trial run will not be forgotten.
“I think their past performance will be a good indicator of future performance and their ability to be compliant,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin.
Scooter supporters can expect to ride them again by the end of June, when the SFMTA hopes to select permit holders. Scooter skeptics, on the other hand, will no doubt be keeping 311 handy, in the event that someone scoots by them while staring at their phone.
Ida Mojadad is a staff writer at SF Weekly.
Imojadad@sfweekly.com | @idamoj