Tech: San Francisco threatens to punish the controversial scooter startups for their riders' bad behavior

The scooters have been annoying residents and commuters, and now San Francisco is taking a stand. San Francisco has begun its crackdown o...

spin electric scooter san francisco

The scooters have been annoying residents and commuters, and now San Francisco is taking a stand.

  • San Francisco has begun its crackdown on electric scooters that have descended on the city in recent weeks.
  • Each of the three scooter-on-demand companies operating in the city — Spin, LimeBike, and Bird —were hit with cease and desist letters on Monday.
  • In the letters, the city claims the scooters routinely break the law and are a "public nuisance."

San Francisco's City Attorney slapped the three high-profile electric scooter companies with cease and desist orders on Monday, calling them "unlawful," "a public nuisance," and dangers to public heath and safety.

These startups let people reserve a local scooter from a smartphone app, ride for a small fee, and, at the end of the journey, leave the scooter wherever to be claimed by the next rider. Unlike existing bike-sharing programs, there's no dock, so the scooters can be left anywhere.

The legal notices, obtained by Business Insider, accuse each of the companies — Bird, LimeBike, and Spin — of skirting local laws by allowing riders to ride on sidewalks, leave scooters blocking sidewalks, ride without a helmet, and ride with more than one person per scooter.

"Lime's current business practices create a public nuisance and are unlawful," one letter reads. "Lime must immediately cease and desist these from practices that allows its customers to create a public safety hazard on the City's public streets and sidewalks, and take effective action to abate its unlawful nuisance conduct."

Attached to the cease and desist letters sent to each of the companies were pictures of riders violating the laws and rules of the road in question.

To be clear, the city isn't banning scooters in general, or these companies in particular.

According to the letter, the companies have until April 30 to provide a written report detailing how they will address the "unlawful" scooters. Until then, the letter reads, the city will begin to impound scooters seen breaking the law — a threat given more credence by the fact that on Friday, 66 scooters were impounded from city streets.

In statement to Business Insider, a spokesman for Bird said the company will begin requiring riders on Tuesday to take a picture of their parked scooter after a ride. That way, Bird will be able to see if people are violating parking rules, and suspend or deactivate users who frequently discard scooters in the middle of sidewalks or in front of building entrances.

Spin and LimeBike have not responded to request for comment from Business Insider.

The city has received a raft of complaints since the scooters first descended on San Francisco. Residents have complained of the scooters routinely blocking sidewalks and building entrances, causing people to trip, and making sidewalks less accessible for people who use wheelchairs. Residents have also reported encountering people riding the scooters, which can reach speeds of up to 15 mph, on sidewalks, which is illegal in the city.

Twitter users have even begun to keep track of scooters breaking the law in the city with the hashtag #scootersbehavingbadly.

While current law doesn't require scooter companies to get a permit to operate, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on Tuesday whether to allow the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority to create a permitting process.

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