It’s been a wild ride, but e-scooters are officially back in San Francisco.
It only took an official ban, a drawn-out permit application process, a surprising selection announcement, three appeals (from Lime, Uber’s Jump, and Spin), and a denied temporary restraining order to get here.
Bird, Lime, and Spin may have started the whole scooter mania earlier this year, but now they aren’t allowed to operate in SF.
You may recognize Scoot from its previous electric vehicle, a red moped, that’s been in San Francisco since 2012. The mopeds are also in Barcelona.
On Monday, 625 of its newly designed “kick” e-scooters were released onto San Francisco streets. New riders could get a free red helmet if they take the scooters out on the first day. The same e-scooters are also coming to Santiago, Chile.
A modified Telepod scooter with lots of red paint, the scooters will have swappable batteries that company employees can swap out, just like with Scoot’s mopeds.
This will make the e-scooters available 24-7, a boon for commuters with non-traditional working hours. They’re available through the same app used to rent the motor bikes.
Scoot CEO Michael Keating said the next version of the scooters will have locks on them, so they can be locked to sign posts and bike racks, instead of dumped all over city sidewalks. Scoot might also add a box for helmets — again, like its mopeds. “We’re going to learn a lot” during the year-long pilot program in San Francisco, he said.
The selection process drew plenty of criticism from the nearly 2-year-old scooter company Lime, which set up company headquarters in San Francisco and was not happy when it wasn’t picked for the city’s pilot program.
Skip previously launched in Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon, while Bird and Lime — both rejected — already operate in around 100 cities each.
On the morning of its first day in San Francisco, Skip CEO and co-founder Sanjay Dastoor was at company headquarters in San Francisco making sure everything was going smoothly on the road, with the app, with Skip Scouts (company ambassadors handing out free helmets and riding tips for the launch), and Rangers (the company’s network of independent contractors who charge the scooters).
Features like the scooters’ tip-over detection system is something that made the young company attractive to city officials. A flexible lock is coming to the next version of the battery-powered scooters.
Dastoor has some experience with vehicle engineering as co-founder of electric longboard company Boosted.
The scooters themselves are a bit different from what San Francisco riders experienced earlier this year. The scooters have a wider floorboard and pretty robust suspension system making for a stable-feeling ride.
“We wanted to build something for the bike lane,” Dastoor said, acknowledging a common complaint from non-riders that the e-scooters often take over sidewalks.
“If we’re not serving the entire city we’re not doing our jobs,” he said.