Scoot in the bushes

Longtime San Francisco fixture Scoot, a scooter and moped rental company, will indefinitely pause operations on July 1. The company also faces a six-figure financial penalty for various permit violations after receiving a cease and desist letter from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency last month. 

The SFMTA sent an initial letter to Scoot on May 21, stating that Scoot’s use of subcontractors was unauthorized and in violation of its permit. According to the Powered Scooter Share Program permit, companies are allowed to subcontract or delegate operations only with prior approval from the transit agency. 

The SFMTA had earlier informed Scoot, on May 10, that three subcontractors it worked with — Puma Couriers LLC, Martin Bros. Inc. and Bay City Bikes — were not approved. But the transit agency received no reply from Scoot, according to the May 21 letter. One day prior, on May 20, the transit agency received confirmation from Scoot that operations were still being conducted by two of the companies. 

In a June 25 letter, the SFMTA notified Scoot it was being hit with a $105,600 penalty, mostly made up of $100-per-day fines dating back to August, 2020. The listed violations included the unauthorized subcontractors, not providing proof of insurance for the subcontractors, and compliance violations like not notifying the SFMTA of charging locations. 

Scoot received its initial city permit in October, 2019, after being purchased by rival scooter rental company Bird in June 2019. The original Scoot moped service launched in San Francisco in 2012, and grew to include kick scooters launched in 2018. The company also expanded to Barcelona and Santiago. 

Mission Local has not yet received a reply from Scoot. 

According to a June 25 statement from the SFMTA, the violations were “revelations” that only came to light recently. Of four applicants, only Spin and Lime will receive 2021 permits on July 1, with 2,000 scooters each. Scoot will cease operations in San Francisco indefinitely.  

“The SFMTA takes these issues very seriously,” reads the statement, “and will defer a decision on 2021 permit issuance to Scoot to allow time for full investigation and complete its evaluation. Scoot service will pause on July 1st during this time.”

UPDATE: A Bird spokesperson sent Mission Local the following statement: “Scoot is proud to have worked with the City for nearly a decade providing shared micro electric vehicles for San Francisco. We are cooperating fully with the SFMTA to swiftly resolve the procedural mishaps that occurred while urgently providing existing local businesses an alternative source of revenue during the pandemic. We apologize for the inconvenience to our riders during this evaluation period and are eager to once again serve San Francisco residents and visitors as soon as possible.” –June 29, 1:15 p.m.

Update on Aug. 20, 2021, at 6:47 p.m.: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency on Aug. 20 granted Scoot a pro-rated permit valid from Aug. 20 to June 30, 2022, to continue operating in San Francisco. The previous permit’s 1,500-scooter cap remains.

All issues relating to the investigation have been resolved, according to the transportation agency. The new permit’s terms clarify that approved subcontractors must abide by the permit’s terms, the agency told Mission Local — and the agency is asking Scoot to resubmit any information required of the subcontractors it plans to use in the upcoming permit period.

Scoot told Mission Local it’s “actively working” to redeploy its scooters in the coming weeks.

Eleni Balakrishnan

Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim over eight years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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23 Comments

  1. SFMTA’s vision to ensure anyone who can afford a car buys one lives to see another alternative.

  2. Naw, this is a company disintegrating. Sad to see Scoot fall apart after the Bird takeover, but not even remotely surprising.

    Scooters in SF are stupid, but most of the stupid is not SFMTA.

    1. With that mindset, please feel free to personally fine every person riding a bike on the sidewalk as well. The people riding them are responsible. Does Tesla or GM or Ford get sued for every car killing someone while the driver isn’t even mentioned? no Dickhead riders are the menace to you and people who think like you are a menace to micro mobility operations.

      1. there should be a rule you have to show your face when you talk to people on the Internet. I think people communicate more responsibly when they have to own what they say.

        1. I’d rather see a law that you have to show your face (go on record with your identity) when calling the police on people. Being rude to someone online is one thing – getting people arrested, brutalized, or even killed by armed law enforcement officers is another thing altogether. People might behave more responsibly if they had to own their complaints against fellow civilians.

  3. Whoever is shooting off fireworks at night COULD YOU STOP ALREADY!!! We have enough going on right now. We don’t need the disrupted sleep and added stress

    1. I’d say the same thing to the operators of emergency vehicles unnecessarily blaring their sirens, which generate more prolonged and stressful noise pollution year-round.

  4. Lime is also guilty of using subcontractors as this moment is SF and should also lose its permit for SF. Maybe half of the info this article is correct. Scoot was first permitted to operated kick scooters in 2018.

    The SFMTA doesn’t understand this industry enough to properly regulate it. They created a permit process that handed permits to the same three companies that defied them in early 2018 refusing to remove the scooters they deployed in SF without permission. Skip Scooters waited, did everything right, was totally transparent with the city and invested millions to create jobs that paid locals a living wage in SF and the SFMTA kicked them out and brought in the worst companies in the industry Lime, Spin and Bird. Everyone lost out, the SFMTA, the people who use the scooters and Skip the one ethical operator is now no more. Thanks SFMTA.

  5. Scoot made a pile of $$$$ during this contract.
    Will any SF agency make this contract cessation widely known, so that other jurisdictions [ potentially ] served by Scoot ALSO know of their scofflaw behavior?

    1. Especially the shoddy, law-breaking “supercorporations” known as governments. They can grant themselves all kinds of special privileges like “qualified immunity”, vehicles exempt from tickets, etc., while violating the Constitution right and left and extorting money from companies and people who are harming no one, all with impunity.

    1. Steve, consider talking to one of the many lower income service workers who use these to commute on Mission or Valencia. Or check out how many people cars kill and maim in our city every month.

  6. I was talking to a cop one day about the riding of scooters, bikes and skateboards on sidewalks and his response was “We’ve been instructed not to write citations for that so that kinda makes it legal even though it’s not”.

    1. There are a whole bunch of bad laws on the books that they don’t dare to enforce most of the time because if they did there would be too much blowback from the public.

  7. Though it existed before the company came along, Scoot created the opportunity for anyone who felt like it to look “cool” and ride with a helmet on while letting the straps flap defiantly in the wind to show the world jut how how cool, rebellious and disruptive micromobility consumers are.

  8. SFMTA is a joke. If you want to be subjected to witnessing homeless people shoot up and jerk off at the same time on your way to work, take the bus. Scoot’s were great, I hope they come back.

    I agree with Alset Dorf.
    A few asshole riders don’t account for the greater population of people who abide by the law and are just trying to get from point a to point b in a timely fashion.

    S.F. residents who are working their asses off in the industry to survive and can’t afford to have a car, really benefited from Scoot’s kick scooters being around.

    Scoot had fantastic customer support, programs to help people with low income, they actually cared about the community. Spin does too. Lime scooters, however, are trash. They do minimal to no maintenance on their vehicles and it’s expensive. Why are they given the green light?

    1. All these scooter companies, like so many other businesses trying to serve the public, are being ripped off by agencies like the SFMTA as a result of government greed. If they want to delegate some of their work, and support more jobs across multiple businesses, by hiring subcontractors, what’s wrong with that? With so much extortion by SF politicians and bureaucrats trying to pad their bureaucratic fiefdoms and line the pockets of the “city family” and their special interest hangers-on, it’s a minor miracle that the local economy continues to function at all.

  9. Would be glad to help with the scooter clutter by deploying our scooter parking and charging stations.
    http://www.swiftmile.com
    We have over 2000 of them in the US and Europe. We are based in the Bay Area, but have never been able to get someone from SFMTA meet with us through countless emails and messages.

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