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San Francisco will stay scooter-free until August

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SFMTA says it needs more time to process applications for the city’s program regulating the motorized two-wheelers

A woman rides a motorized scooter through a crosswalk in San Francisco on April 17, 2018.
Photo by AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

In May, SFMTA accepted applications from app-enabled electric scooter companies for the city’s scooter pilot program, predicting that the two-wheeled wonders, which have both delighted and enraged San Franciscans, would be back on streets come July.

But even as SF-based scooter startups have expanded to more than a dozen other cities, including Oakland and San Jose, they’re still nowhere to be found here.

At last Tuesday’s SFMTA Board of Directors meeting, as SF Bay News noted, board members asked about the delay.

“We got more applications than we thought, so it’s taking us more time to go through them,” city Director of Transportation Ed Reisken explained. “The variability is—it’s taking time to do the analysis so we can look at them apples to apples.”

At the time the city conceived the pilot program, SF had only three local scooter companies competing with one another. In the end, dozen companies applied for a piece of the action, stretching City Hall’s initial, optimistic timetable.

“We were aiming for an end of June decision; based on my experience I was skeptical we would meet that,” said Reisken at Tuesday’s meeting. “Sorry to say I was right.”

Reisken added that the department hopes to have the applications fully processed “by the end of July” and that it will take a few weeks of working with the relevant companies to properly implement permitting. San Franciscans can expect to see the mini-choppers back on the streets (and occasionally dumped in the bay) sometime in August.

Under the pilot program, five companies will be allowed to distribute no more than 1,250 scooters between them on San Francisco streets. After the first six months the city will up that cap to 2,500. The pilot may be extended or altered after the year is up.

In addition to the “original three” companies—Bird, Lime, and Spin—the list of applicants include ride-hailing juggernauts Lyft and Uber, as well as scooter manufacturer Razor and Chinese bikeshare company Ofo.