Scooter saga: San Francisco city attorney issues cease and desist order

By Mark Sullivan

April 16, 2018

San Francisco attorney general Dennis Herrera has sent cease and desist letters to the companies behind the recent wave of app-on-demand scooters in the city–Bird, Lime, and Spin.

The city attorney complains in the letter the three companies are operating what amounts to an “unpermitted motorized scooter rental program,” which it adds is “creating a public nuisance on the city’s streets and sidewalks and endangering public health and safety.” Residents and shop owners have been complaining that the scooters are often left to clog sidewalks when users are done with them. Right now city workers are authorized to confiscate scooters that are left blocking sidewalks. (Spin, Lime, and other companies also offer on-demand bike services, which are unaffected by the attorney general’s demand–and at least people don’t tend to ride bikes on sidewalks, as they do with the scooters, which can go up to 15 mph.)

The city attorney is giving the scooter companies until April 30 to submit plans for correcting the problems.

The companies already feared that the city board of supervisors was about to issue a ban on the scooters. Turns out the board is proposing a regulatory framework for “undocked electric scooters,” which it views as a new class of vehicle. The proposed rules would allow for the scooters’ use only if they’ve been permitted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. The board was to vote on that this afternoon, but the results are TBA. The city attorney’s action today is separate from the board of supervisors’ proposal.

The scooter companies are now absorbing the news. “We have just received it and we are reviewing it,” says Bird spokesman Kenneth Baer in an email to Fast Company. “We’ll be in touch when we have more comments.”