A Spin dockless electric scooter lays on the sidewalk along Market Street. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

A Spin dockless electric scooter lays on the sidewalk along Market Street. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Scooter complaints to SF’s 311 surge

San Francisco is fired up about motorized scooters.

And that’s not just anecdotal. Complaints to the SF 311 service about them have surged in the last week, according to the department.

The increase came after news coverage of the Board of Supervisors’ approval on Tuesday of a new permit and fine structure for app-enabled e-scooter rental companies, legislation authored by Supervisor Aaron Peskin. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is expected to consider a permit program at its Board of Directors meeting May 1.

“Once it got out in the news, people were more aware to call us,” said Nancy Alfaro, director of SF 311.

The scooters can be rented by smartphone, but are afterward are sometimes left in the middle of sidewalks, leading walkers to complain of tripping hazards.

On Friday April 13, there were 32 requests to 311 to remove motorized dockless scooters by telephone and through the SF 311 smartphone app. On the 18th, the day after the vote on the legislation, the number of requests to remove dockless scooters jumped to 95. SF 311 has received 454 complaints of sidewalk obstructions from e-scooters since they debuted in March.

Alfaro warned that the complaint count is likely lower than the number the agency has truly received. The SF 311 app does not yet have a checkbox for the scooters, she said, so SF 311 has to search for keywords in the written complaints. When and if they develop an app category specifically for e-scooters, she said, the number of complaints counted will likely be higher.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency also received direct complaints, said Paul Rose, an agency spokesperson. And San Francisco Public Works has also received complaints, said the agency’s spokesperson Rachel Gordon, but they did not have exact numbers.

However, Gordon did say there were “oodles” of complaints, enough to compel Public Works to send out its inspectors to pro-actively confiscate scooters blocking walkways.

The number of scooters confiscated has only grown: Public Works scooped up 66 scooters blocking sidewalks Friday, 61 on Wednesday, and 159 on Thursday. Final numbers for Friday would not be available until Monday, Gordon said. The e-scooter rental companies, Lime, Spin and Bird have each been charged $5,774 for the cost of confiscating their scooters so far.

Pedestrian advocacy group Walk San Francisco started a social media campaign using the hashtag #ScootersBehavingBadly, asking people to broadcast photos of hazardaously parked e-scooters.

A number of photos have appeared under the hashtag already, with Twitter user Fredo Alvarez posting a photo of three Bird scooters laying across the sidewalk in front of North BeachPizza in the Haight. Twitter user Little Bee Baking posted “8 of these in front of my shop this morning blocking the sidewalk and the bike rack,” and Twitter user Graham Hancock posted a photo of a Lime scooter hung over a trash can. PoliticsTransit

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