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Scooters to return to San Francisco [Updated]

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But Bird, Lime, and Spin will not be part of city’s new pilot program

Electric scooters lined up on an LA sidewalk.
SF companies have expanded to other cities, like LA (pictured), but will be shut out at home.
Photo by Rachid Jalayanadeja

Scooters are coming back in San Francisco. But not everyone is happy about it.

The city of San Francisco decided not to award San Francisco-based electronic scooter companies Bird, Lime, and Spin permits for its one-year scooter pilot program, according to an SFMTA announcement.

That leaves the very companies that kicked off the app-enabled electric scooter phenomenon in SF unable to operate in the city for at least a year. Also left spinning are Uber and Lyft, who saw their applications drive into a ditch as well.

In the end SFMTA selected lesser known Scoot and Skip as the beneficiaries of the pilot program, who will soon have the green light to put 625 scooters apiece on the streets for six months, a figure that may double in the last half of the year.

“The SFMTA’s decision is based on the strength of the proposals submitted by the two companies,” according to an SFTMA statement issued Thursday afternoon.

“The SFMTA found that no other applications substantially exceeded the agency’s standards for operating a shared scooter pilot program in San Francisco to the degree that Scoot and Skip did,” the department added.


In all, a dozen companies applied for permits. The SFMTA statement does not make any more specific reference to the reasons the ten other hopefuls didn’t make the grade.

Previously, City Hall gossip (as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle) held that SF-based Spin, Lime, Bird, Uber, and Lyft had all made too many enemies with their past freewheeling attitude about regulation.

[Update: In an emailed statement, Lime spokesperson Arellano called Skip and Scoot “inexperienced scooter operators” and complained about SFMTA’s process, adding, “We call on the Mayor’s Office and Board of Supervisors to hold the SFMTA accountable.]

San Francisco Battles New Electric Scooter Rentals Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Permits will not actually be issued until October, leaving city streets (and sidewalks) still scooter-free for the time being.

Skip is also based in San Francisco and was formerly known as Waybots before it skipped out on its previous calling in favor of the scooter game. In a Thursday press release, Skip noted that it already operates in Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose, Portland, Oregon, and Washington D.C.

Scoot is an SF-based electric scooter company founded in 2012 that also operates in Barcelona, Spain. In response to Thursday’s news, Scoot said via email it will introduce a new type of scooter with a more powerful motor to SF streets.

Meanwhile, Bird, Lime, Lyft, and Uber were recently handed exclusive contracts to operate scooters in Santa Monica.