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Scooters temporarily quit SF streets, but one company refuses to roll away

Only Spin remains in operation during SF’s shelter-in-place order

A row of identical black scooters with the word “spin” in orange and white on the handles. Photo by Eva Hambach AFP via Getty Images

During the rare instances when San Franciscans venture onto streets during the statewide shelter-in-place order, there will be one more thing conspicuously missing from the cityscape: three out of the four e-scooter peddlers.

Three scooter companies—Lime, Jump, and Scoot—have discontinued service in SF. The only holdout, Spin, will continue to operate.

On Tuesday, Lime announced that it will cancel all service across the United States, and in 22 other countries. The company says it’s pausing service to confront emerging health risks from COVID-19. The company will remain in operation in only nine cities worldwide, most of them in Australia and New Zealand.

On Thursday, local competitor Scoot followed suit, announcing it will temporarily halt service in San Francisco.

Jump, owned by SF-based Uber, also yanked its fleet of scooters this week.

Lime cited a need to keep workers and customers safe as the reason for its suspension, while Scoot made references to impacts of the novel coronavirus outbreak. That leaves one company, Spin, still rolling on SF’s quiet streets.

Spin has tried to frame its decision to stay in business in as heroic terms as possible, saying that “access to essential transportation is more important than ever” during the shelter-in-place orders. Last week, Spin’s founders noted on its blog that the company will clean its vehicles more often and instruct riders to sanitize handlebars before riding.

While e-scooters may not be the first thing people think of when it comes to essential transportation, San Francisco Examiner reports that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has licensed scooter vendors to keep operating during the “stay at home” orders, meaning that the departure of Spin’s competitors is all their own idea.

The ongoing shelter-in-place order has all but erased most of SF’s standard transit realities, with car use and public transit reduced to a fraction of what they were just weeks ago.

Prior to the issuing of the current health orders, Spin said that its ridership was up significantly on Market Street after the closure of the downtown byway to most vehicle traffic, citing a 30 percent increase from January to February.

At the time, other scooter companies declined to comment when Curbed SF asked whether they’d observed similar upticks in use.