23 Apr 18

Scooters by the Bay

One month after the first sharing scooter companies arrived in San Francisco, the city started impounding scooters; not to ban the innovative transport mode completely, but to regain control over its streets.

The impounded scooters are but a sign of the City’s will to take over the streets again. Last Tuesday the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve an ordinance to regulate shared scooters, and the City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent cease-and-desist letters to the main scooter sharing companies in the Bay.


In the last month, San Francisco has seen a wave of electric scooters popping up on the streets. Not unlike the problems around dockless bike sharing initiatives, the scooters overwhelm the city, hindering pedestrians by parking and riding on the sidewalks.

To address these problems, the City Attorney wants to create a permitting scheme that is meant to be opened up by 1 May. To give LimeBike, Spin and Bird – the main scooter sharing companies - the time to adapt, the Attorney sent them a cease-and-desist letter.

The permitting scheme does not mean that the city wants to ban the innovative mobility mode completely, given its advantages for both air quality and traffic congestion, but some regulation has to be put in place.

Responsible sharing

Given the similarities with dockless bike-sharing initiatives, the city is familiar with the problems. After being overwhelmed by the first, the city worked out a lengthy permit process for bike sharing companies; which it will use to set up a similar permitting scheme for e-scooters.

Yet scooter sharing poses additional problems, since new users may not be familiar with the existing regulations regarding motorised scooters. Educating the users on responsible driving and parking would become an important part of the permitting process. Moreover, the companies would be accountable for their users’ behaviour.

Bird and LimeBike already provide initial instructions for new riders within their applications and on the e-scooters themselves. Additionally and to address the Attorney’s concerns, Lime will provide helmets to users as from 22 April, and Bird and Lime will require consumers to submit a photo of their properly parked scooter at the end of the ride.

In the Bay to stay

The city’s Land Use and Transportation committee will meet Monday 23 April to continue the legislation process around dockless scooters regulations. After the permitting process has taken into place, penalties for violations can vary from fines of $125 to confiscation of unpermitted scooters.

In the meantime, the scooter sharing companies show willingness to collaborate with the city. The three companies’ spokesmen declared to take the recommendations of the city into account, by 30 April, in order to receive the permit by 1 May. The new mode of transportation is in the Bay to stay.

Image: specifications of a Spin scooter

Author: Fien Van den Steen