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Bird, Lime and Spin Receive Cease-And-desist Letters from SF City Attorney (techcrunch.com)
81 points by sethbannon 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 163 comments

I joined the supervisor hearing today late, but there was important context there that is missing in this article.

- They mentioned several companies that were waiting for permits to launch, and applauded companies like Scoot (which is planning to launch e-bikes) and Waybots for working with them.

- They mentioned that SFMTA was first contacted about these scooters to in February and immediately began working on a permit process which is due to begin next month. That's light speed for a government agency.

- The only reason there was a sudden rush in deployment was that one company (Bird or Lime) decided to jump the gun and launch on St. Patrick's Day. The others that deployed didn't want to lose first mover advantage. At least one of these three hadn't even contacted SFMTA until after deployment.

- Lime did not even send a representative to the meeting at all. Apparently they decided to just contact TechCrunch after the fact.

The supervisors were rough on them and Aaron Peskin even had the nerve to call them "techbros", but they brought this on themselves by trying to use the old "move fast and break things" play that this city has seen before.

I'm confused on why a launch with proper permits and communication with the city would change the situation. All the same complaints about clutter, bad riders, and sidewalk/road disruption would still be valid.

The idea of an "ownernless" vehicle is flawed. They seem cheap, and so they are a treated like trash. Only if the companies picked them everyday to charge, repair, and redistributed would this work. That maygive them some intrinsic value, and people might respect them enough to not properly park and care for them. However, this is not the case. No one wants a business whose model is to litter the city with trash.

> I'm confused on why a launch with proper permits and communication with the city would change the situation.

Level playing field? It sounds like several companies did the right thing and worked with the authorities to make sure they didn't cause trouble, and then the three in TFA jumped the gun and launched anyway.

As a governing body, you can't allow that precedent to stand. If "ignore regulations and do it anyway" becomes an optimal strategy then everyone will do it and your commons will be tragic.

Everyone already does it. It is the optimal strategy.

Bird picks up all of their scooters every night: https://www.bird.co/sos-pledge-mar272018

They "pledged" that but relied on independent contractors to do all the collection and redistribution. They were not being picked up every night.

What evidence do you have that people tend to treat them as trash? While I'm not sure how often Jump services/replaces their fleet, the few I've used and the many I've seen around SF have all worked great/looked to be in good condition over the past few months. Also, I've definitely seen vans redistributing Jump bikes around town. I fully expect Bird/Spin/Lime does/will do the same with the scooters.

Anecdotally, the dockless bike-share bikes in DC get treated a bit like trash. Friends wake up and find them ditched in their yards, and in their driveways and alleys. They're randomly left in the middle of sidewalks. Etc. Maybe no literally treated like trash, but not treated thoughtfully either.

> I'm confused on why a launch with proper permits and communication with the city would change the situation.

If you have a permit for an activity, it's harder for the agency issuing the permit to argue you are acting without legal permission by doing the activity which the permit permits.

Hence, the name “permit”.

> I'm confused on why a launch with proper permits and communication with the city would change the situation.

Because then the city council would be receiving the tax revenue (permit fees) it feels it is due for /authorizing/ the launch to occur.

I don't often agree with the supes, but here I do. There really needs to be planning and coordination with the government with things like these.

There is only so much bandwidth for modes of transportation that cannot allow leisez-fair transit to run amok in the city. Proceed with a well developed plan with all stakeholders in mind.

On the other hand, we're talking about motor scooters as a hazard and nuisance while there is human excrement on the sidewalks.

One is supplied by a corporation that can be negotiated with and for whom well-established regulations exist. The other is a very, very difficult problem.

Is your argument that, until the homeless problem is dealt with, we should stop doing _anything_ else? I'm not sure that helps.

I'm arguing that fecal matter and used needles are biohazards that are vectors for fatal disease while the scooters are mostly annoying and perhaps unfair.

Do we give a pass to local government to get very sober about scooters being bad for sidewalks while the elephant in the room smells like stale urine and can give you hepatitis?

Yes, we give them “a pass” to do their jobs. We elect them to manage all the affairs of government, including the easy ones.

If you applied the same philosophy to Honda and Toyota, the scooters would win hands-down.

Sure, when people begin to be born, live, work and die in the same building, until then, people will also need long distance transport modes.

New entrants have to cede priority to established systems and work within a framework to augment the systems -- else we end up with things like the millions of dead ebikes we see in China, for example.

>else we end up with things like the millions of dead ebikes we see in China

We end up with things like this in America too: https://slate.com/business/2018/04/astounding-photos-capture...

None of those bikes we saw piled up in China were ebikes and they were all going to be recycled. The VW cars are awaiting regulatory approval for export or resale. The scooters on the other hand are difficult to recycle and weren't even designed for shared use.

What we are saying is, that for every scooter someone is using, thats one less uber trip being taken.

Would you rather those people in the scooters drive?

SF is 7mi across, no one is suggesting you take the scooter to Tahoe.

Electric scooters can do 25km, which is a pretty decent distance.

The two largest complaints in cities with scooter sharing are (1) users riding on the sidewalk because they don’t feel safe on the road and (2) users parking on the sidewalk because all street space for storing personal mobility devices is allocated to 4,000 lb cars. A climate conscious city can get more people using zero emission vehicles like bikes and scooters and solve the issues above by (1) creating protected bike lanes so scooter users of all ages and abilities feel safe riding on the street and (2) converting one or two car street parking spots on every block to bike and scooter parking.

However, street parking has been a 3rd rail of local politics in American cities. Demographics are pointing to change: last year SF added 8,500 residents but car registrations dropped by 1,800. More protected bike lanes, less personal cars, more ride sharing/autonomous cars and more scooters is the future - most boomer politicians running American cities today just don’t get this yet - they and their friends live in highly appreciated SFHs,have a personal car and a place to store said car, maintain a low prop13 tax rate, and reminisce of 1974 when people were moving out of cities and they could always find free parking right in front of their favorite restaurant. But the demographics are changing, our streets will transform as a result and for the sake of our planet, it couldn’t happen soon enough

The government is attempting to do its function and protect the populace.

These companies have done things which violate the government's rules.

Imagine a bug where you fix it incorrectly and it spawns Two more bugs. That is what is going on here, and being discussed in this post.

How should technology companies work with governments when both:

A- deployment of their tech is most likely to violate the law, and

B- the Market Opportunity is most likely to be spoiled by a competitor deploying first

What should that company do? Break things and ask for forgiveness? Budget for lawsuits and ship first? Or adhere to the law, working with the system?

Infuriating, I'm a huge fan of these services. I initially thought they would just be toys, but they've removed any uber/lyft around the city for me - they're both faster and cheaper, they park just like bicycles, they don't cause any noise pollution, and they completely eliminate last-mile carbon output.

Sometimes SF is an infuriating place.

The city is just trying to ensure that the vehicles don't end up abandoned by riders all over the place. This has been a problem with bike and scooter services in many cities globally.

They are giving the companies plenty of time to respond with a plan to address that issue. They're not going to be shut down. They just need to be more responsible for the impact on public places, because we humans are sadly too self-focused to b conscientious.

Hell, the city will probably build more bike racks to accommodate them.

I think it’s bigger than that. There’s a massive FUD meme around dockless technology: the only time it’s in the news is to show the random landfills a few of them end up in, ignoring the 99% that have made millions of lives easier. Dockless bikeshare went from 0 to 200 million riders in just two years, in a country where everybody already owned a bike. This is a technology that makes cities more accessible in a way you can’t imagine til you experience it. But people point to a few left out of place and tell us it’s going to kill our grannies.

  a few left out of place
Dockless bikes are, by definition, all left out of place.

If only people could store them with ease at the side of the street; perhaps paying a fee while they use the land.

You could travel around the city, leave your bike there, and come back and continue your journey!


  store them with ease at the side of the street; perhaps paying a fee while they use the land
Then it's no longer a sharing model; it's a "I want 24/7 control of a bike but only pay for while I'm riding it and park it anywhere without consequences" model.

Which would be handy, but it wouldn't scale well from a business standpoint.

For what it's worth that is exactly how car sharing works in my city and it's doing well, and growing.

> This has been a problem with bike and scooter services in many cities globally.

This is hilarious. People are mowed down by cars every day, but somehow scooters being left in annoying areas is the issue?

This isn't a case of a small and occasional nuisance. This _Atlantic_ piece has already been cited in-thread, but it deserves a re-airing:



An image search turns up more instances:


And: for the record, I bike, and have done so for decades. It's fair to recognise real problems, however, and not trivialise or dismiss them uncharitably.

Dockless cars take much more space and even hit people every day. https://slate.com/business/2018/04/astounding-photos-capture...

On the other hand, I think this is great.

These dockless systems are simply a way to move the negative externalities of the system onto the taxpayer. They clutter sidewalks, result in poor rider behavior, and generate massive amounts of e-waste.

Sometimes, SF actually makes the right call.

This has been a fascinating rapid reaction by the public. I've been both an evangelist for these and a huge critic. I love the tiniest form-factor, and think the bad parking can be solved by user-incentives. Typical ask-for-forgiveness-later that caused people to blow their tops (possibly due to the still ridiculous looking nature of tiny scooters?).

What really soured me is the quality of machines that have been out of on the streets. Anecdata, but in 12 total rides for me, I've had a scooter that had 1) a hand brake with zero functioning ability 2) a throttle that stuck on as far as the user had pushed it 3) a missing bell. Unluckily, first block on that no brakes scooter was downhill and I dug a heal into the asphalt and eventually did a running dismount to avoid rolling into fast moving perpendicular traffic in Civic Center. Sticky throttle scooter caused an uncontrolled skid. Missing bell was a missing bell. But c'mon, these machines had been used for 10 days and they're having critical safety/maintenance issues. These are the worst possible mistakes, and could easily turn fatal.

LimeBike shirked responsibility and their ops manager gave me a "LimeBike Saboteur Theory" over the phone. Bird took hours to disable a a scooter that i was desperately trying to tell them was dangerous to the next rider. Forget sidewalks, these are dangerous vehicles in their current state. You know how Ford bikes feel like tanks relative to a road bike? These scooters also need to be 10x more robust than what's in private use.

Scooters that are available on Alibaba for $200 are not durable for shared use.

The sidewalk cluttering is such a non-issue. The real problem is people riding them on the sidewalks, which is annoying and best and dangerous at worst. Riding them in the street, on the other hand, is scary, I'm pretty sure too scary for mass adoption - I'm pretty sure Bird knows this and is hoping that people will be able to get away with riding them on sidewalks.

Edit: when I say that the sidewalk cluttering is a non-issue, I just mean that as far as I can tell there is barely any sidewalk cluttering, not that said cluttering wouldn't be an issue if it was actually happening.

Have kids and use a stroller? Old and use a walker? Blind and use a cane? Walk and don't look where you put your feet?

Slip and fall are a major cause of death, only second in accidental deaths after motor vehicles. It brings 8M americans to the emergency room every year. In San Francisco, a whole department has been created only to litigate Slips and Falls.

So yes, I'm glad the city prevented my grandmother from tripping on such a thing.

Going to need a source on that 8 million Americans per year going to the emergency room for a fall. That sounds absurdly high. The US population is only about 300 million. That means more ~2.5% of all people each year go to the emergency room because they fell down.

I'm also guessing the vast majority of those falls are inside (probably inside the person's own home). There's a reason companies like lifealert exist.

Over 10% of the US population is over 70. Falls are serious incidents for the elderly.

Whats the median age in downtown San Francisco tho?

If you want to avoid strict regulations move to a red state and go cowboy on your scooter. San Francisco is a conservative place when it comes to the community.

Bay area have one of the healthiest people in the world. It’s an insult they can’t step over or move a 10 pound scooter.

I'm guessing you don't know many people over the age of 65.

Updated my comment: what I'm saying is that there isn't actually any cluttering, not that cluttering is OK.

I have a kid and don't use a stroller - in fact, strollers are kinda one of my pet peeves. They consume tons of space on sidewalks and in restaurants. I'd much rather have sidewalks full of parked scooters that I might at least occasionally use.

But you know what? I'm pretty tolerant, and I'm willing to put up with a little mild inconvenience that allows other people to make their lives significantly easier. I wish everyone else felt likewise.

Strollers don’t typically move 15mph and have 100+ lb people riding in them.

Electric scooters also don't typically move at 15mph, at least not on the sidewalks. Despite the occasional jerk (which also happens with bicycles and for that matter runners), this is not a real problem.

yet! ...

Having tripped over one already, I'd argue the sidewalk cluttering is an issue.

It indeed seems like the companies are playing dumb w.r.t. sidewalk riding and helmets. Are they really assuming people will be walking around with helmets just to ride a scooter for .5 mi? And it's definitely scarier to ride in the street compared to a bicycle.

There's plenty of evidence that helmets don't make you safer, they just make you less likely to ride.

Regardless of efficacy, it's the law in SF to wear a helmet on those things

Sensible riders do it at a speed of a brisk walk.

It's as much of a danger as a grandma (not to say there aren't badass grandmas) riding a bicycle.

In other words, it's a bit of a danger, and also really annoying.

Streets are full of danger then.

Danger that has existed for a long time and is familiar. It’s much harder to take away a dangerous freedom than introduce a new one.

You obviously haven't almost been mown down by an OAP one of those massive 4 wheeled mobility scooters coming round a blind corner - luckily they came on my good side.

Most people don't leave their grandmothers out on the sidewalk overnight. Even in S.F.

A 63 year old man tripped over one on his birthday and ended up in the emergency room with injuries.

People riding them on sidewalks is emphatically not the fault of these companies. Period, paragraph.

I'm shocked to be reading this argument over and over today. That's about enforcing the law against stupid riders. Not companies trying to create a business model for shared bikes.

Yeah, but scooter companies won't have a business without people riding them on the sidewalk, because riding them on the street is terrifying, and it's not possible that the companies don't know it.

They are not at all safe on a road, and if people aren't assholes, they are fine on the sidewalk. The problem is, people are assholes.

The only way to not be an asshole riding one on the sidewalk is to essentially not go faster than walking, at which point why bother?

I actually ride one, and have for about 2 years before this sharing became a mainstream thing. I expected this would happen and always tried to be super cautious when with pedestrians to avoid eventual regulation. I don't have a bell (although maybe I should for safety), but I think it is rude to ding people when essentially I'm on their turf. The advantage they offer if you travel at walking speeds around pedestrians is that there are often significant stretched with no pedestrians on a commute. Also there are parts where you can share a bike lane. In the CBD you are at general fast paced walking speed, but the percent of the journey is pretty low such that it is very efficient for me. Perhaps pedestrians see me as an a-hole though.

A human powered scooter is perfectly fine on the sidewalk. Luxe used them for their staff to get around. I'd love to see a non-motorized docked scooter startup.

Not as bad as a motorized scooter but still not "perfectly fine".

And yet cars kill people every day. Clutter is worse though, somehow.

I have no dog in this fight; I don’t live in SF. I just find it curious that dangerous, incredibly polluting and inefficient vehicles get grandfathered in, and the big gripe with these companies are “clutter”. Seems odd to me, is all.

I just tried one yesterday, it managed to simultaneously feel uncomfortably dangerous and be pointlessly slow.

To give context on my threshold for things "feeling dangerous", I used to be a bike messenger in NYC.

In San Jose, people are completely irresponsible with these scooters. Since they can park them anywhere, they show up in front of stairs, in the middle of sidewalks, in front of doors, and other locations where they impede pedestrian traffic. SF might have gone too far, but it was pretty clear, at least to me that some regulation was necessary.

I think it's only fair to compare dockless scooters/bikes with dockless cars. https://slate.com/business/2018/04/astounding-photos-capture...

Regulation is required, our industry needs to realize it’s not always about the bottom line and disruption. The products we make have real world consequences and they need to be addressed before a “let’s just ship this now to make a quick buck” launch.

I’m glad there were actually some companies that waited to test out their products and work with SFMTA.

This unregulated ship fast theme is no different than handling personal data irresponsibly. Companies that don’t care about the public and only their bottom line should be penalized.

That's wild for me to hear. The scooters are dangerously slow to ride in bike lanes, and unstable on the irregular pavement. They're strictly worse than all other forms of locomotion, including walking. They also make you look ridiculous, in a shameful way. In my experience.

You can feel the hate as you glide along. A+++++ would ride again

Depends entirely on the scooter. The Lime scooters are awfully, stupidly slow, but the Bird ones are plenty fast for the bike lane.

I've only tested the Bird ones. Riding them in the bike lane is terrifying. They're less than half of the speed of bikes!

I've tried LimeBike and Bird. LimeBike had a bit poor acceleration (felt like software throttling), but was taller and a bit bigger than Bird, had a screen. App wasn't as good as Bird's.

Bird requires US licence to use (lol), although manually entering garbage data let me use for single use. Had much better acceleration, but a protruding control box felt a bit annoying.

Both scooters miss hardware locking feature. As a tourist it's common to drain your phone battery to dead leaving you with no way to end your ride. Also, it would be nice to unlock multiple scooters with single phone. Lack of suspension is sometimes uncomfortable, but not too bad.

Safety-wise I've felt probably just as worried as in any foreign city on a bicycle - not great, but city traffic is slow enough to make it ok.

Overall I was super satisfied, can't wait for them to appear everywhere (and get better top speed).

Bird is just a Xiaomi m365 scooter with a "Bird" sticker on it.

How about control box?

Just details. Since they did not design 98% of the scooter, when talking about speed, range, riding quality, I usually refer to it as a Xiaomi scooter and not a Bird scooter.

Much in the same way that if you rent a Zipcar and its acceleration is poor, blame Ford or Toyota or whoever made the car that you rented, not Zipcar.

Funny that you mention noise pollution. My most prominent “experience” with these scooters has been the one parked outside my apartment building the other day beeping incessantly and flashing a strobe light. The beeping was incredibly loud. I started hearing it when my elevator got to the first floor: from across the street and through my building’s front door, lobby, and elevator door. It was beeping like that from at least 6pm when I got home and 10pm when I last checked.

Is there any reason you didn't call the local police non-emergency line and report the abandoned vehicle that was likely violating local noise ordinances?

Doesn't matter if its a shared car, scooter, etc, if its creating loud noises late into the night and its owners are unresponsive, report it. I've done that a few times for Car2Go and ReachNow's.

I considered doing that, but decided it’s probably not worth bothering them given that the street is also filled with homeless people, piles of trash, and discarded needles. I’ve since learned that you can use the 311 app to report abandoned vehicles, so I’ll do that in the future.

It is increasingly crazy to me that we pour so much money into government and then expect nothing of them. Any solution to real problems we face (pollution, traffic, no parking) is expected to come from the private sector. We only expect Government to do the bare minimum and not implode. Government projects efficiently solving these problems would be the ultimate vertical integration, its maddening that so little value is provided to citizens.

It feels like we are totally duped into paying more and more taxes while continually lowering our expectations, although I always feel this way during tax season :p.

Sounds like the same problems as the dockless bike shares. I saw one of those parked next to a Goodwill collection box, probably by a befuddled or malicious resident.

Why should the city provide free storage space for their inventory? I can’t just drop a vending machine wherever I want.

Exactly! Now let's abolish all public parking.

You mean like the 450k street car parking spaces that line almost every street in our city?

Much of the on-street parking is paid parking. If you're proposing that these scooter companies pay per hour that each scooter is left on the sidewalk, I think that's a great idea.

Really, I think its probably only a small fraction. Most residential neighborhoods have free parking, even many commercial areas. Do we have stats on this to be sure?

Parking, even in “free” residential areas is time or permit restricted. So even if payment is not direct there are other indirect payments and constraints.

Not left on the sidewalk, the scooter should be left on the street - a dozen scooters in the space formerly occupied by one car. And they should absolutely pay to use that space! Residential permits in SF are $150/yr. 50c/day per spot. Less than 5c per day per scooter. I think scooter and bike share companies would eat this opportunity up

I and you can drop my bike anywhere I want.

Sharing them means less bikes left everywhere.

SF made an exclusive deal with Ford GoBike, the expensive docked bikes that are never nearby when you need them. That pre-emptively barred these companies from launching their dockless bikes in SF, and so the scooters are the workaround. And as someone else points out, scooters are scary on the street, so now we have a sidewalk problem. This is 100% the city’s fault for saddling us with old bikeshare technology.

$3 for a single 30 minute GoBike trip is expensive? 15 minutes on a Bird Scooter is $3.55. The GoBike stations are fairly dense you might have to walk a block or two. https://member.fordgobike.com/map/

The GoBike is a joke. You have to pedal insanely hard just to go half the speed of a normal, cheap bike. The components are just awful, and the stations aren't that great either.

As a user of both, the Scooter experience is 50x better. Just not even on the same level. I agree some regulation is needed to prevent massive clutter and keep the sidewalks safe, but I've had zero issues with people while a rider, or with riders while a pedestrian.

Dockless bikes are $1 per 30 mins... having one 20 feet from you vs two blocks is a qualitative difference. And zoom out on that map – the GoBikes only cover one small part of the city.

Nevermind the ceaseless free ride promos, and Ofo offering an hour for a buck. I don't see how being more expensive and less convenient is competitive in the transportation sector.

I've seen these pop up all over the bay and in LA recently. More often than not they end up immediately abandoned all over public spaces as soon as they run out of batteries or the first free ride is over. Bird particularly seems the worst. The scooters are really under powered and have tiny batteries with seemingly nobody maintaining or charging them, so they just end up laying around. You also get completely inexperienced riders with zero safety equipment driving around in the streets causing issues. It's just another example of a short sighted attempt to arbitrage the public well being for private profit.

This is rich coming from SF, where homeless tents, needles and human excrement are abound:

“creating a public nuisance on The City’s streets and sidewalks and endangering public health and safety.”

You’re comparing people with mental disabilities and drug problems to highly educated individuals who shipped a product to the public haphazardly to make a quick buck. They should have known better.

That’s true, but I don’t think the comparison has anything to do with the people who cause the problems. The comparison is the significance of the public nuisance and health hazard.

Exactly. I’d also say that the broken glass from 30,000 annual vehicle break ins is a bit more of a public nuisance than some misplaced scooters.

Worth pointing out that not all electric scooter companies chose to disregard city regulations. Waybots has made the choice to work with cities to get approval before launching. Seems like a better approach, and one likely to give them a big advantage long-term. I believe they're still the only legally operating electric scooter sharing company in the US (currently live in DC where they got permission to launch).

These scooters are all over my neighborhood. Most of the time they are parked reasonably. Sometimes they fall over. But they suffer from the "dog shit" problem: there are enough inconsiderate riders who leave the scooters in stupid places that it's going to piss people off. You don't notice the well-parked scooters.

The big issue I see with them is that the people riding them are often unsafe. They don't come with helmets. I've also seen some pretty reckless driving, both in traffic and on the sidewalk.

I think you’re going to see cities acting much more quickly to clamp down on services like this. They have realized that Uber and Airbnb got the proverbial elephant’s nose under the tent, by the time they got around to trying to regulate them it was too late.

FWIW, I think dockless bike/scooter share is a great idea, but having seen what a mess it has become in China, there do need to be some ground rules so that pedestrians aren’t having to step over piles of them to walk down the street.

Have you seen piles of them on the street yourself? I never have, in Beijing, Shanghai, or Xiamen. People are 99% considerate; the 1% who aren’t make for better photos. The frictionless utility of dockless has brought so much ease and joy to these cities that any marginal, occasional mess appears far outweighed to me, and anyone I’ve ever talked to.

I live in Beijing, and the bike and scooter shares are everywhere, including blocking sidewalks and in huge piles and it’s absoultly great. They’ve been a terrific improvement. It’s great to use them, and it’s great to see so many other people using them.

Yeah, they’re kind of a pain to deal with them sometimes, but it turns out you can just move the bikes, and walk or ride around the piles. I have yet to see anyone get stuck in a pile. And somehow even people that don’t use the bikes seem to be able to lend some value to the idea that other people do (this was very strange to me at first, having grown up in the Bay Area).

Beijing is pretty much the perfect city for them though... completely flat and ridiculous spacious and open (except parts of the old city). I can see it being more painful in tighter cities. But they’ll figure the piles problem out; it’s already gotten better, and the net benefit has been pretty large.

Yes, I have, in Shenzhen, as recently as last month. Not the crazy mountains that have made the news, but certainly dozens of them at every corner of the central business district. Fortunately, Shenzhen is a new city, more like San Jose than SF, with extremely wide sidewalks, so there’s enough room. That same density of parked bikes in SF would make the sidewalks unpassable for pedestrians, much less people in wheelchairs.

Here are just two recent examples of this not working out well in Seattle:

Someone abandoned one on a ferry, prompting a $17,000 search: http://kuow.org/post/don-t-leave-bike-shares-ferries-coast-g...

... and piles of them are being left in people’s yards, too: http://amp.kiro7.com/www.kiro7.com/news/local/dozens-of-lime...

There is a very significant aspect of externalities happening here, in my opinion.

That yard full of bikes was a prank for a 40th birthday party. I hope you don't think that is common, I'm in Magnolia (the neighborhood where that happened) often and have yet to see a single bike in someone's yard. Same for Ballard, Northgate, Queen Anne & Fremont, people generally put these bikes right at the edge of the sidewalk or in the median between the road and sidewalk, the same space a telephone pole, tree or trashcan would go.

I hope Seattle follows SF's example, as unlikely as that is in the local climate.

Seattle's current adoption of bike sharing is, in large part, an effort to reduce carbon emissions and too make more use of our roads. I am 100% for doing both of these things, but I think Bike Share programs are not the best path. Deals where University of Washington Medical Center provides employees (noticeable) extra pay for biking to work, and removing minimum parking laws in more areas are the best way to move away from car transport. Even the downtown toll will be more effective at reducing car rides than bike share programs. Bike shares pollute sidewalks, are too slow for any distance more than two miles, and too heavy for going up Seattle's hills. In addition I believe they encourage the dangerous (and locally illegal) practice of biking without a helmet. Finally, I think Seattle's DoT has higher expectations for bike share programs than will actually pan out. I wish data on their usage was more public.

There is no danger to others in biking without a helmet.

The helmet issue is mostly something to try to get at biking people, it is not a public health issue. That why all warning are worded along the line: “helmet prevent head injuries” (like knee pad limit knee injuries), and not “helmet improves general outcomes”.

Most studies agree that head injury absent a car strike are rare and are compensated by the long term benefits over the population. The most dangerous thing in a bike is the surrounding cars.

This, this, this. Nobody, and I mean nobody, wears a helmet when cycling in the Netherlands - not five-year-olds and certainly not adults, and absolutely everyone cycles everywhere. Yes, people do die of bike injuries, but the number is surprisingly small, something like 160 people per year out of a country of 16 million.

That's mostly because of the culture of respect and patience amongst all modes in Holland. In Holland people queue politely on their single speed heavy bikes at stoplights while in San Francisco we've had multiple injuries this year on Market St from bike-on-bike collisions caused by people from the back of the "pack" timing out red lights and passing stopped riders at high speeds.

The UK with a much much bigger population than the Netherlands and worse cycling provision has 102 fatalities - sound's like you have a problem.

The UK has a much bigger population but far few people actually regularly cycling. A quarter of the population in the Netherlands commutes by bike. Compared to the UK they have approximately 1/4 the population but the average person bikes 10x more.



Compute this per miles traveled by bike. Or minutes spent on bikes. The comparison you chose is meaningless.

Falling off a bike or scooter and hitting your head is a non trivial injury and if your unlucky can be fatal.

You can make an argument for wearing a helmet just about anywhere including hiking, walking up stairs, and driving a car. Helmets would presumably decrease head injury rate with all those activities. But we make tradeoffs.

People get very doctrinaire about wearing helmets for specific activities. Not that long ago, people never used to wear helmets downhill skiing unless they were racing. Now they're common and, for some people, are something that it's reckless not to wear.

At least traditional helmets just don't fit with bike share and scooter share services. Maybe some of the flexible materials like D3O make sense for this sort of application as a compromise.

Bike share companies do not fit with helmets, and they choose to do business. I interpret this to mean bike share companies do not care about the safety of their customers.

Especially with undocked bikes, no one has come up with a workable way to rent helmets. It seems reasonable to let adults decide on their own whether to rent or not rent and either carry their own helmet or do without.

People make poor decisions all the time. We can create policies that nudge people into making better decisions. We should do this because it makes society better. Yes, I think the decision to ride a bicycle with a helmet in an American urban environment is a fundamentally better decision than to ride a bicycle without a helmet. I think we should not allow business to operate if they encourage biking without a helmet much the same way it is illegal to rent cars that do not have seat belts installed.

>bicycle with a helmet in an American urban environment is a fundamentally better decision

I agree. I don't bike on streets but I do wear a helmet when I do bike.

>we should not allow business to operate if they encourage biking without a helmet

The problem is that this is effectively equivalent to saying bike-sharing should be banned, especially dockless bike sharing (because they're probably not interesting to many given, say, strict enforcement of helmet laws). I'm not sure that's a nudge that "makes society better."

> equivalent to saying bike-sharing should be banned

Yeah, I said this in my root comment. I hope the city I live in bans bike shares like SF did. I addressed more issues than the helmet there too.

Edit: Reasons why I don't like bike shares as mentioned in the root comment.

* I think local DOT is expecting more ridership than will happen. This will cause us to miss our carbon reduction goals.

* They consume sidewalk space

* Heavy bikes are a bad option for a hilly rainy city. Rain gear and lighter multi speed bikes are required to effectively bike here.

I know people who have an illness that causes them to have fits and he does wear a light helmet - I bit like the ones hookers war in rugby (not that sort of hooker)

Thanks for saying this. I wear a helmet every ride because I have a friend who bumped their head in a low speed over the handlebars crash. They seem fine but they won't taste or smell for the rest of their life.

In 2015 there were almost 467,000 bicycle injuries in the United States. This is a direct quote from the CDC regarding bicycles and helmets: "Bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head and brain injuries in the event of a crash." [0] This is a strong enough warning from an accountable and transparent source that I choose to wear a bicycle helmet every time I ride a bike and I believe people that do not wear a bicycle helmet are reckless. I believe that companies that encourage riding without a helmet do not care about the safety of their customers.

Perhaps bicyclist are more likely to have a head injury if they are struck by a car. I share roadways and crosswalks to with cars when I ride.


A pedestrian dies every 1.6 hours in traffic accidents in the United States. 129,000 go to the ER every year (note that the bicycle number is all injuries, not just those requiring ER treatment). Walking is more dangerous on a per-trip basis than driving.

If we did a study that compared helmeted pedestrians to unhelmeted pedestrians, I'm sure the latter would fare better in terms of head injuries.

Yet no one wears a helmet while walking and no one thinks Nike is irresponsible to sell you shoes that don't include a helmet.

We can always do more for safety. How would you strike the balance between public safety and too many regulations?

The 2010 515,000 bicycle related injuries required ER attention, [0] so the problem is significant enough in size to merit policy. The single biggest risk factor for death or disability in bicycle accidents is head trauma, and helmets are highly effective at reducing the risk of head trauma in bicyclist. [1] Bicycle helmets are a cheap and effective preventive measure to a real public health problem.



I don’t understand how these companies don’t get that a public space is meant to be used, not abused.

If they want to disseminate their vehicles around public spaces so much better but they must at least coordinate with the administrators to do it in an orderly fashion.

IOW, get a permit, pay rent and install sidewalk parking racks. Public free ones are for occasional individual use.

Jalopnik tried to use Bird and came away with a pretty dim view of the experience:


It's interesting, I wouldn't have thought this is a business that could work. Expensive scooters left on sidewalks. Bikes get stolen constantly and are a lot bigger, and could have a tracking device on it.

What keeps them from being stolen and the GPS disabled?

I think the bigger problem with the business model is that the things break down constantly. I usually have to check >5 of them to find one that works.

I haven’t used these yet but I’m very happy with Jump electric bikes, which seems more appropriate for med-long distances and a lot cheaper ($4hr vs $9-10hr for Bird)

Where do they source their scooters from? they seem pretty high quality, you'd think they were pretty expensive. I'd like to buy one myself.

They look for all the world like a Mijia scooter, with a sticker on them.


Just landed in SF an hour ago. I had read about the controversy, but I hadn't expected to see the scooters everywhere so far. Soma, FiDi, and North Beach. Some had headlights on that made them obvious in the dark. It's a very visible phenomenon, partially because I thought that anything like that left on the sidewalk in SF got stolen.

(Neither for nor against - just an observation)

So who recharges all these things? Do they credit people if they bring it to a charging station, or what?

They were paying gig economy workers to collect them after 8pm, charge 10-30 at a time in their apartments, and redistribute from 5-8am. They paid some of these people to show up today and talk about how great it pays. I really wish they could talk to some Uber drivers from 2010.

I wouldn't call chargers gig economy workers when Bird only credits $5/per scooter. That's not an income.

Was a fan too. I haven’t seen any knocked over

I think the biggest problem is they make you look like a douchebag but feel like a hipster.

That’s a wreckless combination the world isn’t ready for.

Major props to the SF Transport authority who is moving fast, breaking business models and generally acting like the adult in the room.

Looks like SF is in good hands.

NB I thought Bird, Lime and Spin in the title was a firm of lawyers or maybe PR people. Could you adjust the title to "e-scooter rental startups get cease and desist orders from SF City" or something. :-)


People that break into cars and defecate in public have nothing to lose. These companies have millions of dollars at stake.

So they are going to allocate city resources to seize and impound them? NIMBYs win again.

SF is a city thriving with homelessness, drug abuse on the streets, dangerous needles and human shit everywhere. Glad to see they are spending time on things that matter.

Among other things, on 6th street there are people sleeping in the middle of the sidewalk, peeing on walls, camping in front of liquor stores and barbecuing illegally on the sidewalk (!) in broad daylight. Yet the fabulous city administration considers electrical scooters to be the topic of the day.

I definitely support the need to regulate these services. On the one hand, I have often wanted such a service in SF. That I should not have to worry about parking or racking is a key requirement. At the same time, it doesn't seem fair to allow private companies to litter the streets with junk. Partnership with government is crucial. I am quite happy with the way things are turning out - they launch first, government reacts quickly to regulate them, and now they work with the government to figure out solutions. The other alternative - them getting permits first - would never work fast enough in practice.

I don't understand the appeal of services like these. If I had billions of dollars to start companies strictly for ironic/satirical purposes, I'd start one for sunglasses sharing. For those who find it too much of an onerous burden and a logistical nightmare to maintain and store a pair of sunglasses in between uses.

Seriously though, why rely on the vagaries of supply and demand on somebody's network, and their maintenance diligence and so on, for a thing that you can own so cheaply, and always have there when you need it? It just has never made sense to me.

The exception of course is for tourists who didn't bring their scooters or bikes along. I have considered it in that case... though never actually did it. I just walked.


1. No money down: a decent bike is $700+, a bike share is $3 per ride or under $100 per year

2. No maintenance: someone else keeps the tires full and the chain lubed. If something breaks, you just park the bike and get another one.

3. No theft: bikes get stolen when they are parked. When a bike share is parked, it’s not your problem.

4. No parking hassles: finding a safe place to park your bike in the city is tough. Many buildings don’t provide bike storage. Try carrying your bike up and down from a 5th floor walk-up every day.

5. One-way trip: you rode to work this morning, and now it’s raining. No problem, take the bus home.

Don’t believe me, just ask New Yorkers, who are taking an average of 40,000 rides per day on the city’s 12,000 citibikes.

Yeah I know about Citibike, Velib, Capital Bikeshare, and the Nike ones in Portland, all of which are part of how I ended up accumulating enough experience of the topic to end up baffled that they're actually popular. But from your comments I realize it's about avoiding a commitment. And I'm not trying to sound as judgmental as that probably sounds. It's to enable you to NOT own a bike. But for reference here's how I've dealt with your five issues:

1. My current bike cost $550 new, 6 years ago, so that would've been less than $100/yr, if I hadn't replaced parts and spent more. But I get unlimited rides. And it'll last another 20 years if I'm not a fad-follower and don't get reckless or unlucky.

2. I do it myself, that way I'm the one in control of when it fails to get done.

3. Always lock it. Never had a problem. Having a cheap $550 bike probably helps.

4. Yep America's like that. I carry mine up & down from the 3rd floor. If I move I'll choose not to live above the 3rd floor. Or maybe I'll live on the 5th floor after all, and become a bad-ass with huge calves and five flights of endurance.

5. I wear rain gear.

> It's to enable you to NOT own a bike.

While this is its main use, it's also a great alternative to riding your own bike in cases where you want extra flexiblity - as referred to in point 5 in the list above - not only for changes in weather, but also when you want to travel out and back through some asymmetric combination of biking, walking, public transit, and Uber/Lyft. This flexibility can be very liberating.

It's also a useful temporary backup when your bike is broken.

> 4. Yep America's like that. I carry mine up & down from the 3rd floor. If I move I'll choose not to live above the 3rd floor. Or maybe I'll live on the 5th floor after all, and become a bad-ass with huge calves and five flights of endurance.

As I'm sure you'd recognize, there are many people (e.g. the not-so-fit) and situations (e.g. fancy clothes and dirty bike, or also having other things to carry) for which this isn't practical.

This is a silly argument. Some people don't want to do the thing you do. They are willing to pay for it. You do want to do the thing you do. You're willing to pay for it.

You would probably find it less silly if you stopped mischaracterizing it as an argument.

The other option for commuters is buy a Brompton (folding bike)

Who's buying $700 bikes? My bike cost under $200, and for $30 extra came with a 3 year insurance and service plan so I can drop by any affiliated store and have it cleaned, adjusted, oiled and ready to go at no cost.

That's not a very good comparison. Sunglasses are a small item that's trivial to store and carry around, it weights almost nothing and doesn't need to be parked when you enter buildings.

Obvious use cases for bike sharing is when you only need to ride a bike one way (so not a return trip) which happens very often actually (i.e. I sometimes ride a bike to a shopping mall but once I do my shopping I have to carry 2 full bags of groceries and other basic items so there's no way I'm riding a bike back, I'd get a cab).

If you plan on walking somewhere for 20 minutes but once you're there you can take tube from there home as it's close to a tube station, another use case. People who live in apartments and don't have storage place to keep a bike. An so on, use cases are plenty which is evidenced by the fact that millions of people use bike sharing in Asia but also other places on a daily bases.

Rent in SF is over $5 per square foot per month. So if your bike displaces the use of 6 square feet in your apartment you're paying $30 per month to house it. If you only want a bike a few times a year it's better to rent.

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