San Francisco Gives Skip, Scoot Permits for EV Scooters

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【Summary】Major players like Bird, Lime, Lyft, and Uber (12 in total) missed out on being able to participate in a 12-month program in the city.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Sep 10, 2018 9:00 AM PT
San Francisco Gives Skip, Scoot Permits for EV Scooters

Electric scooters have become the next battleground for technology companies looking to become one-stop shops. Individuals living in urban areas may opt to use bicycles and scooters instead of cars, which is why companies are looking to capitalize on the shift in cities with new programs. 

How popular are electric scooters? Enough to the point where Bird, one of the more popular electric scooter rental startups secured an additional $150 million in funding earlier this May. The additional funds brought the company within spitting distance of being valued at $1 billion. 

With that kind of money being pushed around, companies are fighting for the lion's share in cities like San Francisco where individuals are more willing to try new technology. According to a report by CNET, Bird, Spin, and Lime unleashed a whole slew of electric scooters in San Francisco. Unfortunately, local lawmakers and residents weren't too happy to see their sidewalks overrun with the electric machines. 

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Lawmakers Bring Electric Scooters To A Halt

After residents complained, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) stated that it would require companies to apply for the right to put their electric scooters on the road. After approximately three months, CNET reports that the SFMTA has made up its mind on what companies would be able to test their electric scooter programs in the city. And only two have been chosen. 

Twelve companies in total sent in applications, but the SFMTA chose Skip and Scoot as the only two that would receive permits to participate in a one-year test program for their electric scooters. 

"The SFMTA's decision is based on the strength of the proposals submitted by the two companies, combined with their experience of owning, operating and maintain a shared mobility service in the public right-of-way," stated the SFMTA in an announcement. The agency also added that it prioritized safety, accountability, equity, and disabled access in its decision. 

While the SFMTA claims that "no application was flawless," the agency did find a lot to like with Scoot and Skip's applications. "Taken as a whole, Scoot and Skip's applications demonstrated not only a commitment to meet the terms of the permit, but a high level of a capability to operate a safe, equitable and accountable scooter share service." 

As CNET points out, the companies that weren't chosen include: Lyft, Bird, CycleHop, Spin, Razor, Ofo, UScooter, Ridecell, Lime, and Jump. 

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Why San Francisco Limited The Amount Of Electric Scooters

The decision to just allow two companies to publicly test electric scooters in San Francisco reveals just how serious lawmakers were when they announced that it would limit the total number of scooters in the city back in April. At the time, the city stated that it would only allow up to five companies to operate their electric scooters in the city. The agency's latest announcement, though, only names Scoot and Skip as the ones that have been given the green light at the moment. 

The law that was put into place in April limits the amount of electric scooters on the road to just 1,250 for the first six months, claims CNET. Based on how things progress, that figure could grow to 2,500 units. 

The race to be first obviously hurt all of the parties involved, as it was just a little too much a little too soon. As the SFMTA claims in its announcement, "complaints ranged from scooters blocking sidewalk access to unsafe riding in the public right-of-way." The issue got so bad that San Francisco Public Works, according to the announcement, had to impound approximately 500 scooters. 

To ensure that this wouldn't happen again, the SFMTA required companies to submit an application for an electric scooter permit. In the application, the companies had to tell the SFMTA how they would provide users with knowledge on how to utilize the machines safely. Education on wearing helmets, parking, and not riding on sidewalks were also included in the applications. 

In addition to these requirements, the SFMTA is requiring both companies to be insured, share data with the city, and have a privacy policy that guards every user's information. Out of all of the companies that applied, it was Scoot and Skip's that impressed the SFMTA the most. 

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What Made Scoot And Skip So Attractive

The agency found Scoot's application to be especially good, as "the company proposed to educate and train its users in safe scooter operations with mandatory instruction videos, helmets included in rentals and free in-person trainings," stated the SFMTA in the announcement. 

In its application, Scoot also claimed that it would use removable batteries to power the scooters. This is unique to the company, as others take scooters off of the streets to recharge. The SFMTA believes that it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, traffic congestion, and the number of miles cars travel in San Francisco.  

Skip, on the other hand, impressed the SFMTA with its commitment to public safety, which is one of the prime reasons the city came out with the idea in the first place. According to the announcement, Skip "went beyond most other applications with proposals to deploy ambassadors to approach users about safe behaviors and provide helmets, as well as offer in-person training sessions for users." 

Low-income users and underserved communities were a major part of Skip's plans, as well. The company's application claimed that 20 percent of its electric scooters would go to "underserved southeastern communities," while users in low-income areas would receive a 50 percent discount on using the machines. 

Another large difference between Skip and Scoot, as CNET claims, is that both companies worked with regulators before deploying electric scooters. Other companies didn't really ask any questions and just went for it. Obviously, taking the time to make sure things were deployed properly has paid off for Skip and Scoot and has hurt others. 

An Uber spokeswoman told CNET that, "Granting only two scooter permits unnecessarily limits mobility options in San Francisco, and we plan to follow up with the SFMTA to share our concerns." 

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