SAN FRANCISCO—Electric scooters which were temporarily banned in the city of San Francisco, have returned to the region. Electric scooters became available for rent in March 2018. Members of San Francisco Board of Supervisors placed a ban on them on June 4 due to improper treatment.

Scooter companies such as Lime, Spine and Bird, who were operating in the city were required to remove its scooters unless they had a permit from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA ) to park its devices on sidewalks or other public spaces.

“San Francisco supports transportation innovation, but it cannot come at the price of public safety,” said SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera on May 23. “This permit program represents a thoughtful, coordinated and effective approach to ensure that San Francisco strikes the right balance. We can have innovation, but it must keep our sidewalks safe and accessible for all pedestrians. We can have convenience, but it can’t sacrifice privacy and equity along the way. This program is a strong step forward. It provides the framework to ensure that companies operating in the public right of way are doing so lawfully and are accountable for their products.”

The scooters were often strewn about and left broken on the side of the road. SF Board of Supervisor Aaron Peskin indicated to the Washington Post that a majority of complains came from pedestrians who were inconvenienced because of the scooters. 

On Monday, October 15, the city of San Francisco allowed two scooter companies Skip and Scoot, who were granted permits to operate scooters in the region during a yearlong pilot program. Both companies were selected because they provide helmets and instructional videos for users. The SF Board of Supervisors hopes this will increase the safety because when the scooters were in use before, public health officials reported an increased number of injuries. The pilot program will allow the city to collect data, evaluate and assess whether further increases in scooters would serve the public interest. As part of the pilot, up to five qualified companies could be issued permits to operate shared, powered scooters in San Francisco. To be considered, they must submit complete applications demonstrating a commitment and capability to meet all permit requirements. Each of the two companies is allowed to put 625 scooters for use.

According to a press release from the San Francisco City Attorney’s office, for the first six months of the pilot program, a total of 1,250 scooters may be permitted. If the first six months are successful, the total number of scooters may increase to 2,500 in months seven through 12. The cap is to allow for a thorough evaluation of the scooter sharing operating model in San Francisco, while minimizing the potential for sidewalk crowding and safety impacts during the pilot phase. This cap is also generally consistent with the number of scooters the city believes are currently operating in San Francisco.

The appeal to both companies is high because Skip offers a 50 percent discount for low-income users and Scoot has a changeable battery to prevent it from having to be taken away and recharged.  

Citizens of San Francisco have taken to social media platforms to express their excitement about the scooters returning.  One Twitter user stated that “San Francisco and @SkipScooters continue to set the standard…Hope to see the other e-scooters & cities follow their lead and keep our sidewalks clutter free” (@alexisohanian).

Written By Ophelia Luchin and Donald Roberts