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Our San Francisco Dockless Scooter Share Policy Proposals

EDIT 4/27/18 – below are the current proposed amendments to Division II of the Transportation Code:

https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/reports-and-documents/2018/04/5-1-18_item_11_pilot_scooter_share_program_permit.docx_.pdf

We support the proposed amendments with the proviso that:

  1. Community-based organizations should play an important role in scooter share monitoring and compliance.
  2. Scooter share companies should be required to contribute to an economic impact fund.

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We wish to share four simple policy proposals that may help with the current proliferation of scooter shares on our sidewalks here in San Francisco:

  1. Dockless scooter shares (hereinafter, “scooter shares”) should be regulated in the exact same manner as dockless bike shares.
  2. Live data about the current location of parked scooters should be made open and shared with the City and other interested parties.
  3. Community-based organizations should play an important part in scooter share monitoring and compliance.
  4. Scooter share companies should be required to contribute to an economic impact fund.

Dockless Scooter Shares Should Be Regulated In The Exact Same Manner As Dockless Bike Shares

We support regulating scooter shares in the same manner as dockless bike shares.

Dockless bikes (and bike share companies) are currently subject to numerous existing City regulations.(1) From a safety perspective alone, there is no reason to require any less regulation for scooters. For example, unlike electric bicycles, riders of electric scooters must possess a valid California driver’s license.(2)

Contrary to public perception, electric scooters are not toys. At a state level, they are regulated as a class of motor vehicle.(3)

Setting aside obvious safety issues, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s (MTC’s) Lifeline Transportation Program (LTP) has identified numerous Communities of Concern (“CoC”) here in San Francisco. These CoC’s are defined by various socioeconomic (et al) factors.(4)

Bike shares are currently regulated by the SFMTA, in accordance with the goals of the LTP. There is no logical reason to exclude scooter shares from the SFMTA LTP. This is an equity and fairness issue. All citizens of San Francisco, regardless of location or disadvantage, should have equal access to modern alternate modes of transportation, including scooter shares. “Streets for All” is a longstanding policy of SFMTA, and in fact is the title of their most recent Annual Report.(5)

Live Data About The Current Location Of Parked Scooters Should Be Made Open And Shared With The City And Other Interested Parties

We support making the current location of parked scooters publicly available.

The existing bike share regulatory framework here in San Francisco requires bike share companies to share location data with the City and third-party researchers.(6) This is so that, inter alia, the City can monitor whether bike share bikes are distributed properly (“balanced”) among neighborhoods, and most importantly, balanced among MTA Communities of Concern.(7)

If this data is not open and easily accessible to outside parties, there will be no way for any stakeholder(s) to know if scooter share companies are following any rules at all, especially the important LTP transportation equity rules.

Community-based Organizations Should Play An Important Part In Monitoring And Compliance

We support community-based and place-based monitoring and compliance enforcement of scooter share companies.

According to media reports, citizens in San Francisco are “gaming” at least one scooter share company by hiding scooters, then waiting for the nightly “scooter bounty” to go up, then returning these scooters to the company:

[They have a] charging system, which pays users several dollars—anywhere from $5 to $14 per unit—to charge batches of scooters and replace them around the city. [They pay] higher bounties on harder-to-get scooters as supply wanes, so people are allegedly hoarding them until the payouts go up.(8)

This sort of gaming pulls scooters out of the pool of available scooters, and frustrates any City policy to make scooters available to Communities of Concern as part of the SFMTA LTP. Rather than relying completely on private “bounty” programs, local community organizations, can and should be incentivized to serve as additional charging stations. In addition, local community organizations can and should be incentivized to recover broken scooters and hold them for scooter share company pick up and repair. 

Scooter Share Companies Should Be Required To Contribute To An Economic Impact Fund

We support making scooter share companies responsible for their own economic impact on City services.

There is no way to get around the fact that by suddenly placing hundreds of scooters on the streets and sidewalks of San Francisco, that scooter share companies are placing a new burden on our City infrastructure. It costs money for City workers to move scooters that are blocking doors and sidewalks. It costs money for SFPD to monitor and cite scooters that are being illegally ridden on sidewalks. There are other costs that will not become apparent until later.

Footnotes

(1) The existing Permit Application for dockless bike shares is at https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/projects/2017/Bike%20Share%20Permit_v1.1_FINAL.pdf and is based on the following Code Amendments: https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/reports-and-documents/2017/10/3-21-17_item_15_stationless_bike_share_permit_transportation_code_amendments.pdf 

(2) See https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/vr/scooters

(3) https://www.dmv.org/ca-california/other-types.php

(4) Number of minority residents, number of low-income residents, number of residents who do not speak English well or at all, number of households with no car, seniors age 75+, persons with a disability, single-parent households, and cost-burdened renters. See: http://www.sfcta.org/sites/default/files/content/Programming/Lifeline/Cycle3STP/Attach%204-Comm%20of%20Concern.pdf

(5) https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/reports-and-documents/2017/12/1-4-18_cac_meeting_-sfmta_fiscal_year_2016-2017_annual_report_streets_for_all.pdf

(6) Permittee shall provide the SFMTA with real-time information for their entire San Francisco bicycle fleet through a documented application program interface (API) and on-board GPS devices put on all bicycles. The Permittee is directly responsible for providing the API key to the SFTMA and shall not refer the City to another subsidiary or parent company representative for API access [. . .]  [Stationless Bikeshare Program Permit Application, pg. 4]

(7) Permittee is responsible for monitoring distribution of bicycles available to customers [. . .] At least 20% of overall bicycle availability shall be maintained within groups of census tracts designated as ‘communities of concern’ (CoCs) by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission [. . .] [Ibid. pg. 2]

(8) https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/wj79jq/san-francisco-is-fighting-the-scooter-trend-with-poop-and-vandalism-bird

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