Inspired by Uber and Lyft — and even hiring some of the rideshares’ executives — a handful of companies are scattering electric scooter across cities first, then waiting for the law to deal with them.
It’s an idea promoted by former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick called “principled confrontation.” Euwyn Poon, cofounder of electric scooter company Spin, refers to it as “innovating on the regulatory side.”
City officials called it something else: “illegal business activities.”
In Santa Monica in September, Bird put scooters on the streets, allowing customers to unlock them with a proprietary rideshare app.
Santa Monica responded by filing criminal charges against the company, which were ultimately dismissed when the company pleaded no contest and agreed to pay $300,000 in fines.
In San Francisco this month, the electric scooter companies, first LimeBike and Spin, then Bird, again distributed scooters across the city, and all three companies have argued neither city had rules in place to regulate their particular mode of transportation.
The companies see it as an emissions-free solution to the “last mile” often walked on foot or taken on a rideshare after using public transit.
Residents complain that riders take the scooters on sidewalks and leave them parked across sidewalks, blocking ADA ramps and tripping unsuspecting pedestrians.
Since their rollout, the companies have been negotiating with Santa Monica and San Francisco on how scooters should be regulated, and how the companies can get their riders to follow the rules.
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