Lime is among the companies that received permits this week to rent out dockless electric scooters in San Francisco. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Mayor Breed signals support for SFMTA scooter policy

After transit officials announced this week that nearly 10,000 e-scooters may soon roll into San Francisco, the reaction from one elected official, in particular, was swift and damning.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin suggested the decision to allow so many electric-scooters into The City showed the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency needs reform to become “accountable” to San Franciscans. Previously San Francisco only permitted about 2,000 e-scooters for rent.

Now, in the face of that backlash, Mayor London Breed has signaled support for SFMTA’s recent decision.

In an endorsement meeting with the San Francisco Examiner on Thursday, reporters asked her position on e-scooter deployment. Breed said she supported seeing e-scooters available throughout San Francisco’s neighborhoods, and that there needs to be more of them on the streets to accomplish that.

“I like scooters,” she added. “You can ride ‘em in a dress.”

Importantly, for the last year SFMTA has restricted neighborhoods where e-scooter rental companies could operate as part of a pilot program. Now that it has established a permanent regulatory program for e-scooters, SFMTA has newly permitted four e-scooter companies to operate in The City: Jump, Lime, Scoot, and Spin.

In order to reach more San Francisco neighborhoods, SFMTA argued, they need to allow more scooters on the streets.

“The more you have, the easier it is for people to get access to them,” Breed told the Examiner. “I gave my direction (to SFMTA) around making sure (they’re available) in other parts of The City and not just concentrated in downtown, that we make sure people have access to scooters throughout San Francisco.”

Though she stated support for “more” e-scooters broadly, Breed stopped short of saying she supported 10,000 e-scooters specifically.

Each e-scooter company will be permitted to roll out October 15, according to SFMTA. Initially, each company will be allowed to rent out 1,000 scooters to the public, but each operator can expand that number to 2,500 should they consistently meet service-level requirements laid out by SFMTA.

Friday, Peskin told the Examiner he felt San Franciscans don’t want 10,000 e-scooters on their streets.

It’s a “nutso notion,” he said.

Peskin intends to introduce a resolution at the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday calling on SFMTA to lower the number of allowed e-scooters. While such a resolution would be non-binding, Peskin said this is a “collaborative” process, and that he is in talks with SFMTA leadership.

Peskin said he intends “to roll this out with real oversight to make sure it’s a first mile and last mile option, to reduce congestion, and to make sure these devices don’t terrorize our sidewalks and pedestrians, and so everyone who uses them on our streets has a helmet on them so they don’t end up in San Francisco General Hospital.”

Additionally, there needs to be a “broader conversation” about a need to SFMTA’s governance in The City’s charter, he said, that the e-scooter rollout symbolizes.

SFMTA needs to be more accountable to the electorate, Peskin said.

While Peskin was perhaps the most vocal opponent of SFMTA’s decision to expand e-scooters in San Francisco, he was not alone. Queena Chen, co-chair of the Chinatown Transportation Research and Improvement Project advocacy group, told the Examiner that the group is concerned e-scooters may clutter up sidewalks used by the abundant pedestrians in Chinatown.

Walk San Francisco, an advocacy group, previously opposed e-scooters in San Francisco and started a social media campaign called #ScootersBehavingBadly. Now, however, they’re calling for tweaks to the e-scooter program.

“We want San Francisco to be a city that puts people first on our streets and e-scooters can be part of this vision by reducing vehicle traffic,” said Jodie Medeiros, executive director of Walk SF.

But Walk SF wants SFMTA to “get ahead of this” in terms of infrastructure, and said The City should “quickly” build many more bike racks citywide to accommodate e-scooters, which can lock to bike racks. This way the e-scooters don’t clutter up sidewalks.

SFMTA will require e-scooter companies pay a combined total of $300,000 to install new bike racks across San Francisco.

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