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SF impounds electric scooters blocking sidewalks

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Three Lime-S motorized scooters are seen available for rental at the foot of Market Street in San Francisco, Calif. on March 23, 2018.

More than 60 electric scooters were swept away by San Francisco’s Department of Works early Friday morning as complaints about the scooters blocking the right-of-way on sidewalks continue to mount.

Mohammed Nuru, director of Public Works, spoke Friday morning at an event teaching elementary school kids about pedestrian safety. Nuru said the department’s operations division at 9 a.m. removed a total of 66 electric scooters from LimeBike, Spin and Bird during what he called a “major sweep.”

Nuru said the sweep occurred in part because of the number of complaints the department received this week about the electric scooters blocking the right-of-way on The City’s sidewalks:

“We’re out there just making sure that people are able to walk and use our sidewalks.”

Nuru said crews will not pick up electric scooters on private property or not blocking the pathway.

All three companies will receive a notice of violation from Public Works and will need to pay a fine of at least $125 per scooter in order to retrieve them, said Nuru:

“The cost is for us picking them up and an administrative fee.”

Nuru added that the companies can file a hearing to appeal the fine. Public Works will keep the electric scooters for 90 days and then get rid of them if no one comes to claim them.

Bird spokesperson Kenneth Baer said in a statement to SFBay:

“Some Birds were impounded and we look forward to engaging with city officials in a fair process to review the reasons for confiscating. Bird respects the DPW’s role in enforcing all parking rules, including the thousands of car parking tickets issued each day. We will continue to build upon Bird’s user education so that our growing user base becomes accustomed to considering their fellow San Franciscans and parks safely out of the right of way.”

The scooters began appearing last month during the St. Patrick’s Day weekend with LimeBike electric scooters popping up on the company’s mobile app for rental on city streets. Since then, other companies like Bird and Spin have also unleashed their electric scooters for rental to the public.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s proposed legislation to regulate and establish a permitting process for the electric scooters is still going through the legislative process, making its way next week on Monday to the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency would establish the permit program as it did for the dockless bike station permit program.

While there no regulations in place yet, state law does include regulations for where the public can use the electric scooters. The public can only use them on a bike path, trail or bikeway. Users also must wear a helmet, be at least 16 years of age to operate the electric scooter and have a driver’s license.

The City also says there cannot be any objects blocking the public-right-of-way, which includes electric scooters.

The pedestrian advocacy group Walk San Francisco has already started a campaign on social media asking the public to submit electric scooters parked improperly or people using them on the sidewalk using the hashtag #ScootersBehavingBadly.

Jodie Medeiros, executive director of Walk San Francisco, has also sent a letter to all three companies this week with  concerns about pedestrian safety.

Part of the letter reads:

“Motorized scooters could be a viable part of the urban transportation system, but to realize their full potential, they must not negatively impact the most basic form of transportation that even your customers use before and after they scoot –– walking.”

Rachel Gordon, spokesperson for Public Works, asks the public to call 311 if they believe a scooter is posing a potential public safety hazard on the sidewalk. The department will send an inspector out to check, said Gordon.

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