Electric scooter permits will be required in San Francisco

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted today to approve the ordinance that looks to regulate electric scooters in San Francisco. The ordinance seeks to establish regulation and a permitting process that would enable the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency or Department of Public Works to take action against scooters from companies that don’t have an official permit from the city.

“Part of the brouhaha has been really the function of the fact, which was admitted yesterday, was that some of these companies have been a little bit fast and loose with the truth,” Supervisor Aaron Peksin, a sponsor of the ordinance, said today at the Board of Supervisors meeting.*

Peskin is referencing the fact that Lime, Spin and Bird deployed their respective scooters without permission from the city. The permitting scheme the city has in mind, Peskin said, is very similar to the one San Francisco has in place around stationless bike-sharing.

“This is a basic permitting scheme to allow the professional staff at SFMTA to permit these with sensible, regulatory frameworks and to be able to confiscate unpermitted vehicles or devices,” Peskin said.

He added that these electric scooters can absolutely serve some benefits to people in San Francisco, but that it does not mean the city should have to sacrifice its sidewalk space. The next step is for the BOS to continue working with the SFMTA to develop this regulation. At a hearing yesterday, the SFMTA said it hopes to open up the permitting process by May 1.

Earlier in the meeting today, the BOS adopted a resolution to develop a working group to inform future legislation around emerging technologies. One of the resolution’s sponsors, Supervisor Norman Yee, noted how he’s heard from seniors and people in wheelchairs who are “being imperiled and inconvenienced because they are having to navigate around scooters and bikes.”

He later added, the purpose of the working group would be to ensure the city is mindful of both the intended and unintended consequences of emerging technologies.

Yesterday, SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent cease-and-desist letters to Lime, Bird and Spin, but that doesn’t seem to be making any difference to Lime, Bird and Spin. All three of their respective scooters were found on the streets of San Francisco this morning.

“As it says in the letter, the City Attorney has laid out some recommendations for operation that he will like to see implemented by April 30; he has not requested an immediate stoppage of service,” a Bird spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We are taking his concerns very seriously and reviewing his recommendations for improving Bird in San Francisco.”

Lime says it’s taking the City Attorney seriously, as well as the vote by the BOS today.

“In response, we are updating our current community outreach plan to address the City’s concerns about pedestrian safety, parking compliance, and rider education,” a Lime spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We plan to roll out new initiatives, along with our complete response to the City Attorney by the end of next week.”

Lime says it will also provide helmets to users, which will we able for pickup starting April 22. Similar to Bird, Lime will also start requiring people to submit a photo of their properly parked scooter at the end of the ride. Additionally, Lime says it will more clearly state that riding on or blocking sidewalks is illegal.

I’ve reached out to Spin about its operations in San Francisco. I’ll update this story if I hear back.

An earlier version of this story misattributed Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s quotes to another supervisor.