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Permanent e-scooter permit program comes with strict rules

Electric scooters will continue to zoom through San Francisco as a permanent fixture in the transportation mobility scene.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors approved by a 4-2 vote Tuesday to make a one-year e-scooter pilot program a permanent program going forward. The move allows potential permittees to make additional e-scooters available as rentals at the discretion of the director of transportation.

With the permanent program comes stricter rules than were in place during the pilot program, said Jason Hyde, SFMTA senior transportation planner. The pilot program ends in October.

Hyde pointed out that of several companies that applied, only Scoot and Skip were granted permits during the pilot. Both companies installed devices that allowed riders to lock e-scooters to bike racks, resulting in decline in e-scooters being improperly parked on streets.

Hyde said the transit agency will require companies to have a “lock to mechanism” in order to be considered for permitting.

The permanent program also allows permittees to establish their own service areas.

In an effort to address equity, Hyde said the transit agency will require permittees to submit a “culturally sensitive outreach plan” and that the agency will monitor how companies promote plans for low-income customers.

Jerold Chinn/SFBay Two Skip scooters and one Scoot scooter are parked near the corner of Market Street and Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, October 15, 2018.

During the mid-point evaluation of the pilot in April, the SFMTA reported that only 68 e-scooters had been registered as part of low-income plans.

The transit agency also wants companies to encourage riders to use helmets despite a change in state law that does not require anyone over the age 18 to wear protective gear while on a scooter.

Hyde said:

“With that in mind, we still plan to give preference to operators who propose innovative solutions for making helmets available for every rental.”

Additionally, permitted companies will be required to pay a bike rack fee and include two unique identifying numbers and a 24/7 call center number on each e-scooter so the public can report incidents and complaints.

Directors Art Torres and Steve Heminger objected to the permanent e-scooter program.

Heminger said e-scooters are not ready for “prime time” because there is a lack of enforcement for users who continue to ride on sidewalks.  

The transit agency plans to finalize and release the new application in August and select new permittees by October.

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