Zip. Zero. Nada.
That’s the number of e-scooters San Francisco Public Works has confiscated from city streets since the powered Scooter Share Permit and Pilot Program launched last Monday, a stark change from the more than 500 e-scooters the department threw into the back of trucks last Spring.
After e-scooter companies launched in San Francisco without city permission in March, 311 and city agencies were inundated with complaints about badly parked e-scooters that blocked sidewalks. The calls led Public Works to clear the sidewalks of more than 500 scooter between March and May at the expense of companies Lime, Bird and Spin.
This time, however, Scoot and Skip have rolled out e-scooters with city permission, and a similar level of public outrage has yet to materialize, public records reveal.
There have been 75 complaints filed to The City so far about e-scooters during the pilot program, resulting in 32 citations, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
From March to May, by comparison, the City Attorney’s Office reported more than 1,800 complaints. Indeed, some single days during the initial “disruptive”-style launch in Spring saw as many e-scooter complaints as SFMTA saw all of last week.
Michael Keating, founder and CEO of Scoot, said his company is trying to respond to complaints as best it can.
“We are happy to hear that there have been relatively few complaints to SFMTA and we will continue to try to get to zero complaints,” he told the San Francisco Examiner, in a statement, adding “The community is on the lookout for poor scooter behavior and we are responding.”
The limited number of complaints may have to do with the limited number of e-scooters SFMTA allowed companies to launch.
Roughly a dozen companies vied to operate e-scooters on San Francisco streets — from multi-billion dollar giants Uber and Lyft to the original scooter company, Razor. Ultimately the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency chose shared moped company Scoot and newcomer Skip as the two exclusive permittees in The City’s e-scooter pilot program. The two companies deployed just 1,250 scooters combined for the first half of SFMTA’s pilot program, with an option for SFMTA to increase the total number of e-scooters to 2,500 later on.
Whatever the reason for the limited number of complaints, Jodie Medeiros, executive director of advocacy group Walk San Francisco, said the launch seems to be going smoothly.
I think the companies have done a decent job being good corporate citizens and doing a lot more education on riding etiquette and parking,” Medeiros told the Examiner on Monday.
Walk SF was so outraged earlier this year by Lime, Spin and Bird allowing riders to park e-scooters on sidewalks that the group started a social media campaign called #scootersbehavingbadly. Medeiros said unlike those companies, Scoot and Skip reached out to Walk SF proactively to work on safety.
The small number of available scooters also prompted Scoot to reduce the geographic area the vehicles are available so they will be more readily available.
The service area for Scoot, which the company announced Oct. 1, stretches from a portion of the Castro down Market Street to the waterfront, through the north of the Mission District to South of Market, down Mission Bay and the Dog Patch along Third Street to a portion of the Bayview.
That limited geographic area is drawing fire is also from prominent elected officials. Earlier this month Supervisor Ahsha Safai skewered SFMTA for allowing so few e-scooters to launch that his neighborhoods, in The City’s south side, did not have any e-scooters available.
Now Board of Supervisors President Malia Cohen has penned a letter blasting SFMTA officials for allowing so few e-scooters that the Bayview and other neighborhoods she represents hardly see them, either.
“I am concerned with the SFMTA’s continued lack of interest and effort to serve my district,” Cohen wrote in her letter, underscoring previous issues with Muni trains failing to run all the way to the Bayview, “switching back” to other neighborhoods.
Cohen decried the “extremely low number of scooters” Scoot and Skip made available in the Bayview, Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley neighborhoods.
“The decisions you make send a strong message to our communities,” Cohen wrote.
A review of Scoot and Skip networks showed only a handful of e-scooters available in the Bayview Monday, despite commitments from the companies to serve those communities.
“Our scooters are moving around all the time and we are improving our rebalancing efforts to make sure all of our service area has scooters,” Keating told the Examiner.