- In May 2018, San Francisco instated a temporary ban on electric scooters after residents complained of congested streets and illegal parking.
- The city has since allowed two scooter rental services – Scoot Networks and Skip – to participate in a yearlong pilot program, which launched on October 15th.
- Within hours of the launch, the companies witnessed a host of illegal behaviour, such as residents toppling over scooters or riding along the footpaths.
The incidents are further proof of the difficulties surrounding the new form of transportation, which first appeared on the city’s streets in March. In an overnight avalanche, three companies – Bird, LimeBikes, and Spin – began deploying their electric scooters in San Francisco to the chagrin of local residents.
“A few weeks ago, I had not noticed any electric scooters in SF. Now you can’t exit a building without tripping over one,” M.G. Siegler, a general partner at Google’s investment arm, GV, tweeted in April.
Part of the problem was that the dockless systems had allowed for scooters to be discarded along the streets. This created a hazard for residents, who found their footpaths clogged and their building entrances blockaded with a mass of vehicles.
The city sprung into action, demanding that the three scooter companies suspend their operations until they were awarded a permit. The companies, which did not seek permission before deploying their programs, were then asked to submit a business plan for ensuring riders’ safety and keeping footpaths clear.
They were soon joined by nine other applicants, including Uber and Lyft. In the end, San Francisco showed little mercy to companies with which it had previously clashed.
In August, the city awarded permits to two scooter companies that had not yet deployed their services: Scoot Networks and Skip. Each company will start off with 625 scooters as part of a yearlong pilot program. The announcement prompted LimeBikes to file a lawsuit against the city over “bias and favoritism.”
Despite their initial complaints, many residents were eager for scooters to return. Though a nuisance to pedestrians, the vehicles have allowed for easy transportation through an otherwise crowded city. Many San Franciscans have also found scooters to be faster and more affordable than car-sharing services.
But the October 15th launch called to mind many of the problems that the city had endured with Bird, LimeBikes, and Spin. Early that morning, a man was spotted toppling the scooters one by one near the Financial District. The scooters were stationed illegally outside a bus stop, preventing some passengers from exiting at their destination.
While both Scoot and Skip have devised systems for flagging unlawful activity, they will have to prove that these systems work before securing a permanent spot on the city’s streets.
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