The electric scooter deluge is dividing San Francisco

Share
×

Tech

The electric scooter deluge is dividing San Francisco

In cities all over the U.S., electric vehicles have been popping up from companies like LimeBike, Spin, Bird and Uber's Jump Bikes. These start-ups have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to solve what some call the last mile transportation problem — the symbolic distance between public transit and the final destination. While consumers may be excited about this influx of new vehicles hitting the road, cities aren't quite ready for them yet.

Here's how they work:

First, you use an app on your phone to find a scooter or bike you want to rent. Then walk to it on the street. You unlock it by scanning a QR code on the handle and then you're off. There's a brake on one side and a throttle on the other that'll propel you up to 15 miles per hour.

In downtown San Francisco, the number of electric scooters has surged recently, introducing a host of problems, including people illegally riding on sidewalks, vandalization and parked scooters blocking the walkways. The city even began impounding scooters that are parked illegally.

Bloomberg | Getty Images

Aaron Peskin, an elected official from San Francisco's Board of Supervisors has been swamped with thousands of complaints from frustrated residents, including some who have actually been injured by a scooter. The city's laws require electric scooter operators to not ride on the sidewalk and to wear a helmet, but looking around this city you'll notice that barely anyone is following these rules.

"I don't want these folks ending up in my hospital at the taxpayers' expense," Peskin said. "I want our sidewalks to be safe."

San Francisco will soon start seeing fewer scooters on the road. A new permit process will begin limiting the number of scooters to just 1,250 for the entire city and require companies to register them with the Municipal Transit Authority.

But executives at these companies say this is just the beginning. Ben Bear a VP at Spin told CNBC that "consumer demand will win out in the long run."