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City orders companies to remove e-scooters from SF streets by June 4

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City officials are ordering companies to remove their e-scooters from city streets pending permit applications and approvals. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The City is ordering e-scooter companies to remove their vehicles from city streets and halt operations by June 4, city officials announced Thursday.

However the scooters may come back by the end of June if permits for the companies are approved.

Until those permits are granted, any “shared” motorized scooter found on city sidewalks after June 4 will be impounded and the operator will be subject to fines of $100 per scooter, per day, in addition to other penalties.

The announcement came at a joint press conference between the City Attorneys Office, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and San Francisco Public Works on Thursday afternoon.

“We can have innovation but it must preserve safety,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said.

The City is encouraging companies to apply for its new “Powered Scooter Share Permit Program.” Permits for that 12-month pilot program were made available the day of the announcement, Thursday, and are due by 5 p.m. on June 7.

“The SFMTA will review the applications and expects to determine which, if any, companies qualify for a permit by the end of June,” the agency wrote in a statement.

If any scooter company is still operating its service on June 4 they will be denied a permit, according to the SFMTA.

SEE RELATED: Companies pledge to curb scofflaw riders as new regulations, cap on scooters approved

The City has so far confiscated more than 500 scooters parked “inappropriately” on city streets, said Public Works director Mohammed Nuru, at the press conference. He added that any scooter confiscated by Public Works on or after June 4 will be “held as evidence” against the companies.

San Franciscans have expressed outrage and appreciation for the scooter services since they launched last month. They have drawn complaints over riders illegally motoring down sidewalks and parking in walkways, and praise for providing a quick mobility solution that they view as a way to curb high-emission vehicle use. At the Thursday press conference, Herrera said The City received upwards of 1,800 complaints about scooters parked and ridden illegally.

Scooter companies Lime, Bird and Spin all have deployed in San Francisco, though other companies are waiting in the wings for permit applications to become available. Recent emails to the SFMTA revealed ride-hail giant Lyft is exploring its own scooter service.

“I’ve not ridden one yet but I’ve heard they’re pretty fun,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, at the press conference. Reiskin was awarded powers by the SFMTA Board of Directors to weigh whether or not scooter companies flouted the law in the agency’s decision to award permits. That latitude will allow Reiskin to evaluate “whether they’re meeting their promises,” he said.

The SFMTA’s Board of Directors and the Board of Supervisors each approved different components of the new scooter regulations on May 1 and April 24, respectively. The 12-month pilot program will allow SFMTA to collect GPS data and assess impacts to the public. For the first six months of the pilot SFMTA will permit 1,250 scooters to roam city streets, though the agency said it may allow 2,500 scooters for the remainder of the pilot. SFMTA has previously said it would only award permits to five scooter companies.

“Just because something is innovative doesn’t mean it’s good for our city,” Reiskin said.

Lime spokesman Joe Arellano said the company is “excited” to apply for a permit will comply with the city’s demand to remove the scooters.

“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,” Arellano said in a statement. “We recognize there is still a learning curve for many riders and will use the time our scooters are off the streets to further promote rider safety and proper parking in the community, as well as local hiring, with the help of our San Francisco partners.”

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