- More and more electric scooters are covering the streets and sidewalks of San Francisco.
- Startups like LimeBike and Bird let users reserve a scooter from a smartphone app, ride for a small fee, and leave the scooter anywhere.
- People are abandoning their scooters on sidewalks – which is becoming a nuisance for tech workers and people who commute to work on foot.
Electric scooters for grown-ups are taking over the streets of San Francisco.
Since mid-March, three startups have rolled out motorized scooter rentals across San Francisco. These are stand-up vehicles like the Razor scooter you might have cruised around on as a kid – but they’re outfitted with motors and electricity and reach speeds up to 15 miles per hour.
Electric scooter-sharing startups Bird, LimeBike, and Spin let users reserve a scooter from a smartphone app, ride for a small fee, and leave the scooter anywhere at the end of a journey.
The rise of electric scooter rentals has created some crowding on San Francisco sidewalks, because the vehicles don’t use docking stations like some electric bike-sharing startups.
In recent days, tech workers took to social media to gripe about the electric scooter onslaught.
M.G. Siegler, a general partner at GV, the venture capital arm of Google’s parent company Alphabet, said the proliferation of electric scooters in San Francisco happened quickly.
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 (@mgsiegler) April 2, 2018
It’s hard not to notice them, according to tech writer and editor Jessica Misener.
meanwhile in san francisco: razor scooter share for adults pic.twitter.com/B15Mt7YvS2
— Jessica Misener (@jessmisener) March 26, 2018
they're abandoned everywhere.
— Matt Graves (@mgrooves) April 2, 2018
I leave town for 5 days and the entire city of San Francisco is now riding electric scooters. Count me in!
— Alex Freeman (@imsofreeman) March 31, 2018
Business Insider’s Rob Price spotted a trio of electric scooters from Bird outside of our office in San Francisco. He said he saw people driving the scooters down sidewalks, which is technically illegal.
It's true: Electric scooters are taking over San Francisco right now. These 3 are right outside our office. More round the corner. People cruising down roads and sidewalks on them. pic.twitter.com/ecG8SY2OSI
— Rob Price (@robaeprice) April 2, 2018
Scott Kidder, a software engineer, called for these startups to curb their scooters.
Electric scooters and bikes are littering #SanFrancisco, found these scooters blocking entrances at the SF Ferry Building. I'm all for new transportation options, but @limebike needs to keep our city clean! @SFFerryRiders @SFBayFerry pic.twitter.com/LfRfaCm5Lu
— Scott Kidder (@hexdumpster) March 30, 2018
Now, city officials say they plan to regulate electric schooter sharing.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is working with San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin to create legislation that would “create appropriate permits and requirements to regulate motorized scooter sharing,” a SFMA spokesperson told Tech Crunch.
Their office sent a letter to Bird, LimeBike, and Spin, asking each to submit a business plan that describes how the company will comply with the city’s requirements and how it plans to distribute and maintain scooters across the city, the San Francisco Chronicle and TechCrunch reported last week.
The letter said the city would “actively enforce local laws protecting the city’s right of way.”
every stupid startup floods the zone with their garbage crap until you cant walk anywhere without falling over a neon tricycle
government steps in when the arteries of every city are long clogged with the trash of the moment, usually already too late
— ಠ_ಠ (@MikeIsaac) April 2, 2018
Electric scooters are not prohibited in any way, though California state law bans riding motorized scooters on sidewalks and requires riders to wear a helmet and hold a valid driver license. The vehicles do not come with helmets, which means riders must bring their own.
The wannabe Uber of electric vehicles
Bird, a startup based in the “Silicon Beach” area of Los Angeles, delivered about 175 electric scooters to the San Francisco Bay Area in late March. The startup is led by a former Uber and Lyft executive and has raised $15 million to expand throughout the US (and is raising again).
When Bird first launched in a city near Los Angeles called Santa Monica, the city filed a criminal complaint against the startup over its failure to obtain a permit for operation.
Bird is now trying to do right by the cities where it operates. The company said it will pick up vehicles nightly and relocate them to where they’re likely to be used, and it will add new scooters to a city only if it can show the existing scooters are being used at least three times per day.
Bird also plans to give $1 per vehicle per day to local city government, “so they can use this money to build more bike lanes” and build and maintain road infrastructure.