Bird, Uber and Lyft get another chance to apply for electric scooter permits in SF

In light of a so-far successful electric scooter pilot program in San Francisco, the city has opened up the application process for service providers to deploy their respective scooters as part of a more permanent program. However, the permits will only be valid for about one year, “reflecting the rapid pace at which the scooter industry continues to evolve,” the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency wrote on its blog.

That means starting in October 2019, we may see electric scooters from more than just Skip and Scoot. Skip and Scoot’s current permits expire October 14, 2019.

As part of the permitting program, the SFMTA plans to issue permits to “a limited number” of applicants, the agency said. The city also plans to maintain a cap on the number of scooters to be deployed at any one time, likely somewhere between 1,000 to 2,500 scooters per company. Currently, Skip is authorized to operate 800 scooters, while Scoot is authorized to operate up to 625.

The application requires companies to integrate locking mechanisms to all of its scooters, implement stricter policies to ensure people don’t ride on sidewalks as well as pilot adaptive scooters to ensure people with disabilities are not left out from this new form of transportation. This comes shortly after Lyft began testing adaptive bike share for riders in San Francisco and Oakland, Calif.

The deadline to apply is August 21, 2019, which gives the likes of Bird (proud new owner of Scoot), Skip, Lime, Uber/JUMP, Lyft, Spin and the many others a fair amount of time to get their things in order — that is, if they want to. All of those companies mentioned above applied for permits to operate as part of SF’s pilot program, but were denied. Some companies took it worse than others, while others decided to focus their efforts on other markets for the time being.

What we can expect is yet another battle among the electric scooter providers to deploy their vehicles in the highly coveted market of San Francisco. Last time, there were about one dozen applicants for the city’s pilot program.

On average, scooter riders took about 3,400 trips per day in San Francisco in May. Scoot has had a pretty drama-free existence in San Francisco, minus the whole theft and vandalism issue that forced the company to add a locking mechanism to its scooters. Skip, on the other hand, had to pull its scooters off the streets after one caught on fire in Washington, D.C.

It would be odd if the SFMTA didn’t consider that as it looks over all of the applications this time around. Meanwhile, given that a couple of Lyft’s electric bikes recently caught on fire due to apparent issues with the batteries, Lyft has likely given the SFMTA some pause around the company’s abilities to safely deploy electric vehicles.