San Francisco issues e-scooter companies June 4 deadline

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City leaders in San Francisco are taking steps to regulate electric scooters in San Francisco. 

City Attorney Dennis Herrera, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and the Department of Public Works unveiled new rules for scooters on Thursday. 

"Any scooter company currently operating in the city must remove scooters from city sidewalks by June 4th. Only those companies approved for a permit will be able to operate in the future," Herrera said at a a news conference.  

The city law was unanimously passed by the board of supervisors on April 24 and signed by Mayor Mark Farrell.

"We can have innovation, but it must keep our sidewalks safe and accessible for all pedestrians," Herrera said at a news conference. 

Under a year pilot program, starting Thursday, the city will begin issuing permits to motorized scooter rental companies such as Lime, Spin and Bird. 

Until then, scooter companies have been ordered to stop operations by the deadline and not to resume rentals until permits have been issued. 

Under the pilot program, the SFMTA says it would grant permits to five companies for 500 scooters each. 

As part of the permit, applications companies have to prove how they will keep sidewalks clear of scooters, provide insurance and protect the privacy of renters. 

Permit applications will be made available on SFMTA's website for companies interested in offering the shared e-scooter service.

Applications for the new 'Powered Scooter Shared Permit' are due by 5 p.m. Pacific Time on June 7. After that date any scooter found on San Francisco city streets with out a permit will be impounded and face a $100 fine per day. The operating companies also face being denied an operating permit from the SFMTA. 

The city says it has received 1,800 complaints since last month about scooters blocking walkways or careening down sidewalks and endangering pedestrians. 

Jeffrey Tobias with his friend Chester Mendoza were picking up a scooter for a first-time ride on Harrison Street and recognized a problem.

"I was on Haight Street the other day and there were scooters laying everywhere, which makes you think what the hell is this?" said Tobias.

His friend chimed in, "I see these scattered everywhere, man and it's kind of annoying and people literally come up so quick driving down the sidewalk and almost hit me and everyone else," said Mendoza.

City Attorney Herrera highlighted the problem.

"There have been reports of broken bones, near misses by these scooters," he said.

The three major companies involved started operating in the city without permits back in March.

Under the 12-month pilot program the SFMTA will evaluate whether scooters serve the public interest and up to five qualified companies could be issued permits if they demonstrate a commitment to public safety compliance and accountability. 

For the first six months of the pilot program, a total of 1,250 scooters may be permitted. If it goes well for the first six months, that number could increase to 2.500 in the program's second half.

One of the companies, Lime, issued a statement after the news conference to say they are "excited" to apply for a permit and will comply with the city's request to remove scooters by the given deadline. 

"We applaud the SFMTA and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera for expediting the permit application and approval process to ensure minimal disruption to riders," the company said. 

Lime said they would use the time off the streets to promote rider safety, proper parking in the community and even local hiring. 

Last month, Supervisor Jeff Sheehy said he has ridden the scooters himself, and believes they have a place in the city. But, he stresses, within certain guidelines.

The e-scooter companies have said they are an environmental friendly, emissions-free option that helps get people out of their cars and reduce traffic congestion.