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SF passes new laws to penalize bike-share companies like Bluegogo

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Chinese-based bike-share company Bluegogo will be required to obtain permits from The City to use parking spaces across The City. (James Chan/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved new laws to regulate stationless bike-share companies, fearing a rash of bike dumping on sidewalks across San Francisco.

That new regulatory framework was sparked by Chinese bike-share company Bluegogo, which failed to meet a deadline to file permits to use parking spaces for commercial use with the Planning Department on Friday.

Bluegogo uses those parking spaces as “stationless” areas for their customers to leave their rented bikes, usually propped up against one another or in piles.

When asked Tuesday if Bluegogo met their permit deadlines, Planning Department spokesperson Gina Simi said, “No, they have not. Therefore we will begin enforcement proceedings this week on each site.”

Simi said Bluegogo has 15 days before a notice of violation is filed. If Bluegogo does not vacate the parking spaces or file a permit by that time, enforcement would follow. That enforcement may involve fines or police action, according to planning code.

Bluegogo spokesperson Lindsay Stevens said, “We’re still waiting on a response,” and that the company made multiple requests on “what exactly was needed to file.”

Meanwhile, the legislation, authored by Supervisor Aaron Peskin and co-sponsored by Supervisor Mark Farrell, arms city officials with laws to enforce against “shared” bikes, which are actually rented via a mobile app, if found left strewn across city sidewalks.

Darcy Brown, executive director of San Francisco Beautiful, told the supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee on Monday that she supports regulations for bike-shares “to avoid our neighborhoods becoming indiscriminate dumping grounds for unregulated bikes.”

Bluegogo’s entry into San Francisco this year prompted a flurry of actions from city government, including warning letters and public scorn, over its “stationless” bike-sharing model. Bikes are unlocked via cellphone app, but can be left in parking spaces across The City. In China, Bluegogo’s business model allows bikes to be left anywhere.

But few of San Francisco’s warnings to Bluegogo not to replicate its Chinese business model here carried legal teeth — something that now would change under the newly passed law.

The new regulations make it a violation of law to operate a stationless bike-sharing business in San Francisco without a permit, and allow San Francisco to remove and offer citations for bikes left in the public right of way, like sidewalks.

A framework for conditions for that permit to be established will be voted on at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Board of Directors next week, SFMTA staff said Monday.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, policy think tank SPUR and others went on record with the board supporting the new regulations.

When the legislation passed a Board of Supervisors committee on Monday, Farrell thanked Peskin for spearheading the effort to scale back scofflaw bike-sharers.

Farrell added, “We will continue to be vigilant against those who flout our laws in San Francisco.”

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