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Walk San Francisco Creates “Scooters Behaving Badly” Facebook Album

10:05 AM PDT on April 13, 2018

A scooter blocking the sidewalk at Hyde and Grove. Photo: from Walk SF’s “Scooters Behaving Badly” album.

Walk San Francisco, in response to a number of complaints from its members about scooters on the sidewalks, is demanding that Bird, Lime, and Spin--purveyors of app-based electric scooter rentals--take action. Walk SF has also created a Facebook photo album for people to post images of Scooters creating a hazard.

From the Walk SF announcement:

Walk San Francisco, the 20-year-old organization that advocates for safe streets and sidewalks, sent a letter on April 11 to the three dockless scooter companies — Bird, Lime, and Spin — currently operating in San Francisco, urging them to take immediate action to follow California Vehicle Code 21235, which prohibits riding motorized scooters on sidewalks and parking them in a way that blocks pedestrian mobility.

“San Francisco’s sidewalks must remain a safe, protected space for people to walk. Suddenly, motorized vehicles are zooming along the sidewalks. That’s unsafe, and it’s illegal,” said Walk SF's executive director Jodie Medeiros in a prepared statement.

The release also says that "Walking home from his 63rd birthday dinner, Hayes Valley resident Scott Polizzi ended up taking a trip to the emergency room after tripping over a dockless motorized scooter."

Streetsblog spoke with Polizzi by telephone. "There was a Lime scooter parked in the middle of the sidewalk and I went to move it and I tripped and fell and broke my toe," he said, adding that the scooter was heavier than he expected. The incident happened last Saturday evening on a sidewalk near the AgeSong senior living facility in Hayes Valley.

Polizzi said he regularly sees scooters haphazardly discarded on the sidewalk and he fears for senior citizens trying to navigate around them, which is why he was trying to move one.

A scooter in front of Age Song. Photo: Scott Polizzi
A scooter in front of AgeSong. Photo: Scott Polizzi

Streetsblog reached out to Bird, Lime, and Spin. Bird spokesman Kenneth Baer replied promptly with the following statement:

Bird has been operating in San Francisco, in accordance with all the laws and regulations on the books, for just over two weeks, and the people of this city have enthusiastically embraced this new transit option. In this short time, riders have traveled more than 50,000 miles.

Baer wrote that the company has set up a Save Our Sidewalks Pledge website, asking all dockless scooter and bike companies to pick up their vehicles: "...we have committed to picking Birds up every night, only deploying enough Birds to meet rider demand, and paying the city $1 per vehicle a day to fund bike lanes, shared infrastructure, and safety campaigns. If the city wants to create a new regulatory structure, we look forward to working with Walk SF along with many other community groups and officials in San Francisco as we develop a framework that works for everyone."

As Streetsblog pointed out in a previous post, many bike advocates feel the reaction to the scooters is somewhat overblown, especially when weighed against all the other hazards on our streets and sidewalks. As one bike advocate put it, the scooters are new, so they get noticed. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is sitting the scooter debate out for now.

Personally, I'm a bit mystified by the reaction to the scooters. I also walk every day in San Francisco and Oakland and, while I've seen a few scooters, I don't understand how they jump out as a problem worthy of new laws and regulations (which seems to be where this is headed). I mentioned this to Polizzi and he suggested that the companies are dumping lots of scooters in his neighborhood, Hayes Valley.

So I took a walk this afternoon through the heart of Hayes Valley, from Hayes and Van Ness to the AgeSong home and took note of any scooters and/or other obstructions to the pedestrian right of way. There were a couple of scooters stacked neatly against buildings, but nothing that could be construed as a sidewalk obstruction by any stretch of the imagination. There was, however, a car stopped in the crosswalk on Franklin (for at least two cycles of the light) as seen below:

This guy hung out in the crosswalk for at least two cycles of the light.
This guy hung out in the crosswalk for at least two cycles of the light.

In addition, there was a knocked-over traffic cone in the middle of the sidewalk and a sidewalk garden complete with large rocks and a prickly cactus that seemed a bigger and potentially more painful trip-hazard than any scooter.

A sidewalk garden with rocks and a cactus
Ouch.

Whether scooters represent an urgent and unique problem or not, at least it's not too difficult to see how they could become an issue for seniors and the disabled, and it's good that at least one company seems to be taking pro-active action.

"...Walk SF and Bird share many of the same goals: we want to help San Franciscans get around this great city easily, while reducing traffic and carbon emissions," wrote Bird's Baer, in his email to Streetsblog. "We are also passionate about protecting the right of way."

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