San Francisco, Santa Monica Allow Electric Scooters in New Pilot Programs

August 30, 2018, 10:28 PM UTC

Electric scooters will return to San Francisco’s streets after a four-month ban, in what is just the latest chapter in a rocky relationship between the city and an emerging form of transportation.

On Thursday, San Francisco announced that it had picked two companies—Scoot and Skip—from among a dozen applicants for a test beginning on Oct. 15. The two companies will be able to put up to 1,250 dockless electric scooters on the city’s streets after the city banned them in June, following complaints that customers left scooters in the middle of sidewalks and endangered pedestrians by driving recklessly.

Meanwhile, Santa Monica, Calif., the next-door neighbor to Los Angeles, said on Thursday that had approved a fleet of 1,000 electric scooters from companies Bird and Lime, as well as 2,000 dockless electric bikes from Lyft and Uber-owned Jump Bikes. The companies will be able to operate for 18 months, during which time they must pay the city $1 per day per scooter for infrastructure projects, including bike lane installation and upgrades.

Over the past year, the Santa Monica City Council has been crafting the pilot program regulate and rein in the bikes and scooters that flooded the coastal city’s streets starting in September 2017. Some of the program requirements including permitting fees and a cap on the number of scooters, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Scooter and dockless bike riders must follow the same rules as bicyclists, which means they should stay off sidewalks and stop at red lights. But so few do that cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles have started to push back against what was largely an unregulated mini-industry.

Over the past couple of years, the number of scooter and dockless bike companies has exploded. Keeping track of them all, along with the acquisitions in the space, is difficult.

For example, Lime, which has rolled out in Paris with plans to expand across Europe, has taken major funding from Uber and Google parent company Alphabet. In July, Lyft bought Motivate, which operates docked bikeshare programs in the San Francisco area, Chicago, and Washington D.C. among other cities. And Uber got into the scooter and e-bike game in April by acquiring Jump Bikes.

In San Francisco, the two scooter companies that received approval must share rider data with the city, protect customer privacy, and offer access to low-income riders. Scoot already operates sit-down Vespa-style electric scooters in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, the companies whose applications San Francisco did not approve, including Drop, Razor, and Spin, must lick their wounds and focus elsewhere.