A China-based bikeshare company has lawmakers scrambling to stop it from dumping tens of thousands of bicycles for rent on San Francisco’s streets without proper planning or permits.
Now city agencies have threatened legal action against bikeshare company Bluegogo should it expand into San Francisco, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.
Officials caught wind of a proposed Bluegogo launch from Chinese-based news reports, among other sources.
Bluegogo has not responded to interview requests from the Examiner.
The letter was sent Monday by the heads of the San Francisco Public Works and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the two city agencies with most oversight over bikes and city streets, and warned Bluegogo CEO Gang Li that his company has no legal grounds to expand into San Francisco under its current business model.
That warning was sent at the behest of Mayor Ed Lee, sources told the Examiner.
In particular, the agencies warned Bluegogo that Bay Area Bike Share — run by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission — as well as Motivate and Ford Motors have the exclusive rights to automated site-to-site bike sharing in San Francisco.
“You need to ensure that your business operations would not conflict” with that exclusivity right, the agencies wrote.
If Bluegogo does not comply with the agencies’ requests for permits and modify its business accordingly, “your company may be subject to legal action,” the agencies informed Li.
The letter was signed by SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin and Director of Public Works Mohammed Nuru.
The two directors also asked Bluegogo to provide information on their expansion, and offered help in facilitating a legal launch in San Francisco.
Of particular concern is Bluegogo’s business model, which is to dump thousands of bikes in vast piles on public sidewalks, which it has done in cities in China already.
Public Works and SFMTA warned Bluegogo that the agencies have a duty to protect the public against hazards and other obstructions to the public right-of-way.
As the Examiner previously reported, Bluegogo is a stationless form of bike sharing. The company places bikes on sidewalks in cities which customers can find via GPS on a smartphone app.
That is a far cry from its local competitor, Bay Area Bike Share, which keeps its bikes in docks throughout San Francisco.
According to Mashable, Bluegogo placed 35,000 bikes in Shenzen, 25,000 bikes in Guangzhou, and 10,000 bikes in Chengdu last month.
A Chinese-language news site, Sina, reported earlier in January that Bluegogo planned to soon move bike production and expansion to San Francisco.
At least one other city official is concerned to see Bluegogo’s expansion into San Francisco: Supervisor Aaron Peskin.
Peskin represents District 3, including Fisherman’s Wharf, which features many traditional bike rental companies. When he first learned of Bluegogo’s alleged proposal, he addressed it bluntly.
“This is the age old tech arrogance,” he said.