That could mean as many as 27,500 scooters on the streets — one for every 32 San Francisco residents — though Barnett couldn’t comment on the likelihood of all being approved.
The maximum amount currently authorized is 2,500, though Skip (allowed 800 scooters) and Scoot (625 scooters) have not hit the limit. So the new deployment could be a significant expansion.
“We are very encouraged with the results of the pilot program and see e-scooters as a good fit for last mile commutes,” Barnett said in an email. “Anything we can do to cut down on traffic congestion and pollution is a top priority for the SFMTA.”
Chaos erupted in spring 2018 when three companies — Bird (which has since bought Scoot), Lime and Spin — introduced scooters without permits. The city soon banned the vehicles altogether, and then rolled back the ban in favor of a pilot program. A dozen companies applied to participate in the pilot, but only Skip and Scoot got the coveted green light in October.
The city reopened applications this summer. New permits, valid for a year, will be issued before the pilot program expires Oct. 14.
The Chronicle received application information from nine companies (Wheels didn’t respond to a request, and Bolt couldn’t provide information in time).
Under most proposals, the scooters would cost $1 to unlock and then 15 cents to 30 cents per minute to ride. Jump is an outlier: It’s free to unlock but costs 33 cents a minute. VeoRide proposed charging more for longer rides.
When reviewing new applications, the city will probably keep a close eye on three issues — equity, safety and sustainability.
Equity: Critics of scooters want to make sure the devices aren’t primarily used by rich white men — as an SFMTA survey of about 1,700 riders found earlier this year. In an April evaluation of the ongoing pilot program, the agency gave Skip and Scoot poor ratings for equitable access and said more engagement was needed to serve historically disadvantaged communities.
Scoot’s low-income ridership has multiplied tenfold since then, a spokesman said. A Skip spokeswoman said the company offers a 50% discount for low-income riders. New applicant VeoRide proposed a 60% discount.
Here’s who applied and where they’re based:
Skip (San Francisco)
Scoot (San Francisco)
Lime (San Francisco)
Lyft (San Francisco)
Spin (San Francisco)
Jump (New York)
Helbiz (New York)
Bolt (Miami Beach)
Razor (Cerritos — Los Angeles County)
Wheel (Los Angeles)
Scooter companies that have applied for permits
Number of scooters that could be authorized per company
Number of scooters if SFMTA approves the maximum number for each company
Other companies, including Lyft, Lime, Spin and Jump (which is owned by Uber), would offer passes allotting low-income riders a certain amount of time per day or unlimited 30-minute rides at a steep discount. Lyft would charge low-income riders $5 a month, Lime and Jump $5 a year. Spin offers a 50% discount to full-time college students. Many companies also provide cards that riders without bank accounts can buy at local stores and use to rent scooters.
In terms of access for those with disabilities, Razor said it could roll out a model with a seat, double-wide floorboard, larger tires and a front basket. VeoRide proposed operating some sit-down three-wheel scooters.
Lyft recently started a pilot program that offers people with disabilities 18 hours a week of free access to handcycles, footcycles and side-by-side tandem devices. Lime would introduce vehicles serving people with disabilities as 3% of its fleet over three months. Spin is partnering with organizations serving disabled and visually impaired communities.
Congestion, collisions, fires: When scooters without permits hit San Francisco streets last year, mayhem ensued. Riders barreled down sidewalks and caused crashes. Pedestrians had to step around inconveniently parked scooters. The city cracked down. Riding on sidewalks is banned (though it certainly still happens on occasion), and companies are required to put in place locking mechanisms to make sure scooters aren’t blocking walkways.
As of January, a new state law allows adults to ride e-scooters without helmets. The SFMTA remains concerned, however. Only 12% of riders who reported a collision were wearing a helmet, according to SFMTA’s April report on the pilot program.
SFMTA tracked data on about three dozen collisions in 2018 either self-reported by Skip (Scoot didn’t report any) or gathered from the San Francisco Police Department and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. About half of collisions were between a scooter and a motor vehicle.
Other safety issues seemed more freakish. In June, Skip pulled its San Francisco fleet for a day after a scooter caught fire in Washington, D.C. A spokeswoman said at the time it was an isolated incident with no evidence of a systemic issue.
To tackle safety, Jump proposed a couple of ideas: developing a sidewalk detection feature that would warn riders to comply with the law and introducing a larger and more durable scooter with a handbrake. Many companies proposed giving out free helmets.
Sustainability: VeoRide started using batteries that can be swapped out in the field this spring. Jump has a similar upcoming model with a swappable battery. This system reduces the need for vehicles to transport scooters to charging stations each night. Spin plans to use 100% renewable energy for its buildings and is partnering with a consultant to ensure that all scooter parts are properly recycled. Helbiz has proposed awarding customers starting or ending trips along key transit lines with discounts or free rides to encourage last-mile commutes.