Electric Scooters Are Reportedly Already Creating Problems In San Francisco

Image: Scoot

Week one of San Francisco’s year-long electric scooter pilot program is reportedly already creating problems, both with the way they’re being operated and seemingly by the sheer fact that they now (legally) exist on its streets. Problems with the e-scooters just days into the program include illegal parking, devices left astray, and riders on footpaths, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Chronicle reported Monday that early indications show the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) pilot program, which launched Monday with companies Skip and Scoot, has some work ahead of it.

As one such example, Salvadore Reynoso, who operates a florist shop in San Francisco, told the Chronicle he witnessed a passerby knock over nine Scoot scooters that may have been illegally parked, one at a time, before continuing on his way:

The scooters appeared to be parked illegally at a bus stop, which Reynoso said blocked some passengers from exiting the buses through the back doors. It’s against city rules to park a scooter in loading zones or areas marked by a yellow or white curb.

“Why would you do something like that?” said Reynoso, who described the man as angry but couldn’t tell if he was unwell.

The Chronicle also reported witnessing an individual riding an e-scooter on the footpath — which is prohibited and was a problem for the city before their ban earlier this year — before being told by a Scoot representative to move to the street.

According to the SFMTA, both companies are responsible for education and enforcement of the city’s e-scooter rules, which include specific parking requirements and operating the motorised two-wheelers on streets and in bike lanes where possible.

“Along with the acceptance of the permit is the condition that the companies are responsible for educating their customers on the rules of operation,” SFMTA chief spokesperson Paul Rose told Gizmodo in a statement by email. “Failure to do so could lead to a fine, confiscated scooters or a revocation of the permit.”

A Skip representative told Gizmodo by email that it works to prevent tip-overs and illegal parking by requiring that each rider take a picture of their scooter parking job when they’re done using it in order for the company to “track patterns and behaviours directly as well”.

Specifically for tip-overs, Skip said it has detection in each scooter that alerts its Skip Scouts (or brand ambassadors) and Rangers, which the spokesperson said handle the charging, gathering and redistribution of Skip scooters. A combination of Skip Scouts and Rangers operates around the clock.

“Skip knows its success is predicated as much by the experience of non-riders as the popularity among riders,” the company said. It added that it is working with the SFMTA and the San Francisco Police Department on rider responsibility enforcement. Scoot did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

The newly minted pilot program follows a citywide ban on e-scooters earlier this year after three companies — Lime, Bird and Spin — brought motorised scooters to the streets of San Francisco without first securing permission from the city.

At the time, complaints from residents began rolling in after the unpermitted scooters began littering the city’s streets. The Chronicle reported at the time that in addition to tripping over them, people complained of the motorised scooters being left “in the middle of footpaths and bike lanes, and blocking building entrances with them”.

The city issued cease-and-desist letters to the three companies in April, with San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera writing they “[created] a public nuisance on the City’s streets and footpaths and [endangered] public health and safety”. After reviewing applications from 12 companies for e-scooter permits from 12 companies, it ultimately decided in August to move forward only with Skip and Scoot.

Let’s hope for a smoother ride this time around. And for the love of god, if you’re riding one of these things, wear a helmet.

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