UPDATE: April 19, 2018: San Francisco Public Works impounded an additional 24 dockless scooters on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after City Attorney Dennis Herrera wrote cease-and-desist letters to LimeBike, Bird and Spin, according to SFGate and others. A department spokeswoman told the SFGate that crews will continue confiscations of the scooters indefinitely.
The cease-and-desist letters give the companies until April 30 to develop plans for operation that complies with city law. Bird told TechCrunch that the letter doesn't request "an immediate stoppage of service," though the following letter, sent to Spin, seems to state otherwise.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors also unanimously voted Tuesday to approve an ordinance that will advance regulation of dockless scooters. If passed, the law would "establish a violation" for scooters to be parked or left unattended on a public right-of-way without an MTA-issued permit.
- San Francisco Public Works impounded 66 dockless scooters — 29 from Bird, 23 from Spin and 14 from LimeBike — from the city's sidewalks on Friday, as reported by the San Francisco Business Times and others.
- Since the dockless scooters launched in the city earlier this month, they have reportedly littered sidewalks and public pathways, creating what some have called a "hazard." Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru told the SF Gate the city "can have nothing obstructing the path of travel," which is what prompted the confiscation.
- The city's Land Use and Transportation committee will meet Monday to hear legislation aimed at regulating the dockless scooters. However, the respective companies have reportedly already vowed to work with the city on finding a solution.
It's been almost a year since the dockless bike movement swept cities nationwide, and even less time since dockless scooters hit city streets. The launch of this "innovative" transportation mode has brought with it substantial backlash, mainly toward the inevitable "littering" that happens when riders improperly leave the vehicles on sidewalks — or in trees or waterways. As evidenced by photos of misplaced dockless scooters, San Francisco has not been immune to this common mistreatment of the vehicles.
San Francisco's decision to impound scooters follows in the footsteps of Coronado, CA, which began impounding a number of dockless bikes left on the city's streets and sidewalks in March. And it's quite possible that this city action will continue to spread nationwide until the responsible companies develop a strategic solution to improper bike and scooter parking.
In March, Bird invited LimeBike, ofo, Mobike and Jump to sign a "Save Our Sidewalks" pledge, designed to offer guidelines for responsibly operating a vehicle-sharing business, though that pledge was not well received by the invited companies. Spin co-founder Euwyn Poon dubbed the pledge as "insincere" in a blog post, while ofo said the pledge was designed to "[bypass] cities and rules, putting untested, unregulated e-scooters on the streets without permission."
This inability for dockless companies to agree on path forward has put the ball in the court of the city, which is creating a wave of uneasiness among the companies. Bird even accused the San Francisco Board of Supervisors of pushing an emergency ordinance to ban the dockless scooters, though the claim was discredited. The city will still move forward in debating regulations on the scooters, which could disrupt the progress and popularity of the companies, thereby incentivizing dockless operators to cooperate with the city.