Supervisors To Consider E-Scooter Ordinance

Legislation is moving forward that would allow SFMTA to impose permit requirements on companies that have rolled out dockless electric scooters across the city.

As we reported in March, mobility companies Spin, LimeBike and Bird placed an unknown number of e-scooters on city sidewalks. The devices hold significant appeal to some commuters, but many city residents are finding them a nuisance.

Because electric scooters aren't specifically prohibited, there are few restrictions on where they can be stored. Although it's illegal to ride them on sidewalks and users are required to wear helmets, those prohibitions are frequently ignored.

A Bird scooter left at Geary and Hyde.

An ordinance proposed last month sponsored by District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin and District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim would impose permitting and enforcement regulations on dockless e-scooters similar to what was adopted for dockless bike share programs, Peskin’s chief of staff Sunny Angulo told Hoodline.

If passed, the new rules would likely result in SFMTA establishing a permitting program for scooter companies that also requires them to provide helmets, she said.

The ordinance would also allow SFMTA to impose administrative penalties if companies violate the permit requirements. The Department of Public Works would be authorized to remove and impound any unpermitted scooters.

A Bird scooter left near a curb ramp.

“State law already requires that these scooter riders wear helmets and stay off the sidewalks, though they are currently permitted to ride in the bike lane,” Angulo said. Riders are also required to have a valid drivers' license and keep their speed below 15 miles per hour, but it’s difficult to enforce those provisions, she added. 

The legislation will be considered by the Board of Supervisor’s Land Use and Transportation meeting on Monday, April 16th at 1:30pm.

Committee members will vote on the ordinance after a public comment period, Angulo said. If it passes, it would go before the full Board of Supervisors for consideration.

Pedestrian and bicycle advocates have expressed mixed feelings about the e-scooter emergence. More mobility options can reduce the number of car trips and reduce traffic and pollution, but some scooters are blocking curb ramps, sidewalks, and crowding bike lanes.

This Bird scooter was left in the middle of the sidewalk on Post Street.

In response, pedestrian advocacy group Walk SF created a Facebook photo album that aggregates photos of scooters strewn on sidewalks.

“San Francisco’s sidewalks must remain a safe, protected space for people to walk,” said Walk SF’s executive director Jodie Medeiros in a press release. “Suddenly, motorized vehicles are zooming along the sidewalks. That’s unsafe, and it’s illegal.” 

Scooter-sharing company Bird yesterday issued a press release stating its opposition to an “impending emergency action by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.” Bird is concerned the supervisors are pushing through a ban on their shared scooters as a knee-jerk reaction to constituent complaints.

A LimeBike scooter outside a Metreon entrance. | Photo: Steve Bracco/Hoodline

Under the city's legislative process, new rules must be held for 30 days before they can be brought to committee to give the public—and city staff—time to review the proposal, Angulo said.

The regulations and rules being proposed "are not bans, they are designed to help manage the myriad of competing interests for use of our public realm," she said.

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