Scooter-Sharing Scheme Is a Brilliant Idea, Executed Not So Thoughtfully

scoot2

Your Bernalwood editor has been on the receiving end of a steady stream of grumblings about Scoot Networks, the scooter-sharing startup with sharing locations in Bernal Heights. We wrote about Scoot for the first time last August, but since then the company has expanded its reach in Bernal — and the grumblings have expanded with it.

Here’s one from Neighbor Adele:

Are you thinking of offering any more coverage on the ‘Scoot’ fleet taking up street parking issue? I am actually a daily bicycle commuter so I’m not the worlds biggest parking advocate, but I actually get a serious sense of unease and frustration seeing branded scooters from a private fleet blanketing my street (Folsom near Bessie). They are all over, and to be clear, they are taking up all manner of spots. It just feels like another part of the Airbnb-ification of the neighborhood. I don’t see this precedent from car sharing companies. Obviously public entities have a major role in PLANNING the extension of the much more innocuous bicycle shares into new locations. Is it too much to ask for some planning to go into the extension of private, for-profit transit systems into our residential neighborhood?

Like Neighbor Adele, your Bernalwood editor does not require street parking, so I have no personal reason to begrudge Scoot’s presence.

Unlike Neighbor Adele, your Bernalwood editor doesn’t really mind if private companies use public space once in a while. Private companies have contracted to use public space to do all sorts of things since pretty much forever, and so long as these arrangements are properly authorized and generally serve the public interest, then I think that’s fair play.

Yet it’s easy to understand why many Bernal neighbors are frustrated by all those red scooters. Scoot Networks does not have designated parking spaces for its vehicles, and the Bernalese who use Scoot often park their shared scooters in ways that squander precious street parking space. In theory, five or six scooters can easily park in the space occupied by one car, but in practice, when five or six Scoots park haphazardly in spaces that would be a better fit for larger vehicles, neighbors end up with far fewer places to park.

Mostly, it seems that Scoot might work better with dedicated, designated scooter parking spaces. Here on glamorous Precita Avenue, for example, there are lots of odd sidewalk bulbs and short curbs between driveways where cars simply won’t fit. Those would be excellent for designated scooter-only parking. Instead, however, Scoots often park randomly, and often in the most inefficient ways possible.

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That seems like a loss for everyone. It obviously stinks for neighbors who end up with fewer places to park close to home. It probably stinks for Scoot customers, who don’t have a designated place to go find their rides. It can’t do much to help Scoot’s brand, because although the company gets good marks from customers, the current parking scheme encourages neighbors to develop the kind of festering resentment that only street-parking issues can generate. And most of all, it doesn’t help rally support for the larger cause of ridesharing, which is a very positive urban transportation alternative in our tech-enabled age.

Bummer for all of us. Scoot is a good thing, but there must be a more elegant way to integrate it into the fabric of the neighborhood.

PHOTOS: Scoots parking badly in Bernal Heights, by Telstar Logistics

42 thoughts on “Scooter-Sharing Scheme Is a Brilliant Idea, Executed Not So Thoughtfully

  1. It seems like this could be mostly fixed by Scoot’s doing a better job of educating their customers about the appropriate places to park the scooters. Throw in occasional ride-bys to look for poor parking in areas with lots of use (like Bernal) and move inconveniently parked scooters.

    • Agreed. Both would help, and it looks like they do have staff stop by pretty frequently anyway, so both seem possible.

      As an aside, I would probably would have bought a scooter or small car were it not for Scoot (I don’t own either now), so while you could say it’s a private company taking up a parking space, it’s a parking space that I would have used by one person that is now (to use the obnoxiously co-opted – but accurate – term) shared.

  2. The future is shared vehicles instead of single owner cars that sit for the majority of the week. Up on Mirabel most cars sit there untouched all week long. What a waste of a shared resource (our city streets) and what I consider more of a private taking of public space than Scoot / Zipcar / Citycarshare etc..

    More things like scoots, less cars.

    These shared vehicles are being used by your neighbors, not by outsiders. There is no reason to have a shared vehicle on the hill if people on the hill were not using them. This is not overflow parking or storage, etc.. This is a shared resource near the people who are using them.

    Parking makes people lose their everloving minds and its time to evolve.

    • So all this talk of “sharing” is inneresting. I started teaching my kids and their friends that it’s important to share, and that sharing means you charge money for it. You can share a ride, or share your lunch, but you make them pay for it, because that’s what sharing means now.

      and ‘single owner’ bad, eh? But if it’s ‘shared’ (see above), it’s good, even if the single owner is a company! Hmmm, I know I read a book about this kinda stuff… “four legs good, two legs bad”

      • Yes, Snobby.

        Also, I find it humorous when someone predicts “the future,” because of how well prognostication has been shown to work…

        We should really try to curb our tendency toward moralizing. Single ownership isn’t “bad.” Those who want to share transportation should be free to do so voluntarily, and WITHOUT the need to demonize or penalize those who need and/or want private transportation.

      • Props for the Animal Farm reference, but as Jeff points out, the Scoots and Zipcars of the world make for much more efficient use of curb space than private, single-household automobiles. Parking spaces have value, and in a city like San Francisco, that value can be quite high (well over $10,000 per space). Unless people are charged market rates for parking, companies like Scoot will take advantage of this underpriced resource (currently free in most of Bernal) to scratch out a profit.

      • aw heck, you’re right, @Bruce… see, I always get confused between “sharing” and “profiting”; “private” and “private company”; It’s a brave new world out there!

  3. I will add some frustration onto the Scoot Parking pile…

    A couple months ago, someone parked a Scoot in front of my house. It’s a good spot for a car, a comfortable width in between two driveways. One of those driveways is mine. And I use my driveway, so I can park my car in my garage, so that I don’t take up a spot on the street. I’m trying to be a good neighbor. This Scoot parked in the CENTER of the spot that is big enough for a car AND a scooter, if only the scooter had been parked at the edge of the spot rather than in the center.

    So, of course, a car that needed to park wedged itself between the Scoot and my driveway, overlapping my driveway (and the clearly painted red “DPT” zone) just enough that I could not pull my car out. I felt horrible, as a person trying to be a conscientious neighbor at all times, calling the tow company to move that car. But I mean, they were blocking my driveway, and it was 8:45am and I had to get the kids to school. What was I supposed to do? I had to reschedule my whole day and everyone was late, because a car tried to park where there wasn’t quite enough room because a Scoot was parked in the center of a space big enough for a car and a bike. (Why didn’t they just move the Scoot over? They thought about it, I found out later, and decided against it. I mean, it’s weird to move someone else’s bike even if it is a ride-sharing vehicle, right?)

    And then, of course, I was accosted by the car owner later that day in front of my kids because I had their car towed. They couldn’t afford to get it out of the tow lot. I felt bad and totally understood their frustration, but also, they were blocking my driveway. That person made a bad decision to park there. They could have slipped a note in my door with their phone number and a kind “Call me if I need to move my car, sorry to block your driveway, there were no other spots”, but they didn’t do that. I tried all different ways to get my car out of the garage without bumping into that car, but I couldn’t. Their parking error cost me, too, because I missed a class I had already paid for and there are no refunds. So who will reimburse me for that missed class? The person who parked illegally, blocking my driveway? Or the Scoot driver, who parked legally, albeit rudely? And it also cost a lot for the person blocking my driveway, to get their car out of the tow lot. THIS is the true cost for Scoots to park here! Outrage!

    Thank you, Scoot, for turning me into a bad car-towing neighbor! boo. hiss.

    Also, I am pro-ride-share, but agree there ought to be some designated spots for the Scoots.
    Ps I am also on Folsom near Bessie.
    Pps I don’t really want or expect anyone to reimburse me for the missed class.

    • Hi Nina, FWIW, I think your actions were totally reasonable. I have once had to have an illegally parked vehicle towed, and I felt terrible too. But it’s the system we have.

      >Why didn’t they just move the Scoot over?
      My thought exactly. IMO, so long as it can be done safely, it’s OK to move a ride-share scooter to a better legal parking spot. In an ideal world Scoot would say this publicly, but for now perhaps we can agree among ourselves that it’s OK.

      • Nudging a scoot over a few feet seems reasonable in principle, but the steering locks when they’re locked, and they’re probably 100+ lbs, so it would be hard to do safely.

    • Just wanted to say that I agree with saffel! I don’t have a driveway and have occasionally had to spend a long time hunting for street parking and/or parked many blocks away from home, but I would never even consider blocking another person’s driveway! That’s just horrible behavior, regardless of how poorly the scooter was parked. Anyone who does that deserves to get towed.

  4. What’s the difference between a customer paying for a Scoot and parking it on the street or a customer paying for a rental car and parking it on the street? I think this conversation is actually two separate issues.

    One, that Scoot needs to figure out a better system for designated pick-ups.

    Two, well actually that’s not an issue at all. Just like with rental cars, people can park where they please. And just like with cars, some people are inconsiderate and park horribly!

    • The difference is that you turn in the rental car when your rental is over and it is stored in a private, off-street lot until it is rented again. With Scoot, the vehicles remain on the street between rentals– that’s the issue people are having. Our neighborhood street parking is being used as a parking lot for a private enterprise between rentals.

      • Exactly. It fries my butt that two (!) prime non-meter parking spaces have been designated as red zone “car sharing” right next to the library. I have seen the same Zipcar parked there for a week or more and have never seen two cars using the spaces. Very often the spaces are completely empty at the expense of library patrons wishing to use this public resource. Yet the Meter Moles scour Cortland to write their $72 parking tickets the instant the blinking lights turn red. If these “sharing” companies aren’t getting a free ride, why not eliminate two metered spaces on Cortland for their use?

  5. I’m not too bothered by the scoots. I think it’s good to have them around although it would be great if they parked in spaces too small for cars. That would likely go a long way to help get people on board with the idea. As far as a private company taking up public space, I say it’s just as bad (good?) as private cars parking on public space. I think all who use public street space to park private vehicles should have to pay for it. I will disclose that I park one car on the street.

  6. these scoots are quite easily moved with two people, and manageable with one stronger person. it’s a lot less aggravating than the above outlined scenario – see a scoot in the way? pick it up and move it. or ask someone to help you.

    • Yep. My impression is that the individual scoots here are usually not parked for more than 4-6 hours without getting used during the day, though, and in theory I think they keep track of parking time so they can send people over to avoid running afoul of this.

  7. I don’t require an on-street space, if that allows any special objectivity…

    1) Fact: Within a highly regulated framework, anyone may park on the streets.

    IMO, those who advocate for “pay to park” on city streets haven’t considered the unimaginable chaos of such a scheme. Also, our taxes go to street maintenance, etc., and it is unnecessary to add to the burden of living here. There might be some argument about how much private companies do/don’t pay vs. their use of public resources, but again: complex.

    2) Fact: There is a big difference between what someone CAN do, and what they SHOULD do.

    I doubt this advice will reach the ears of Scoot managment, but here it is: What you are doing is legal. What you are doing is NOT wise. If you think that legality is all you need to worry about, consider just how much SF government accommodates squeaky wheels (aka: neighbors and neighborhoods).

    I don’t presume to know the solution to your looming problem. But if you continue to aggravate neighborhoods, I guarantee you SOMETHING (probably governmental) will happen, and my bet is that the process won’t favor you. Why not get ahead of the problem and have more of a say in the solution? If you feel like you won’t be negatively affected because you are “doing good” with your company and are technically legal, I urge you to pick up a history book and give it a skim.

    —————————————

    PS to Nina: Rest your conscience. You did all you could. There are plenty of truly evil people who tow whenever they get the chance, because they can, without realizing the devastation it can cause.

  8. It is perfectly legal to park a vehicle on the street for 72 hours, and if their business model is working right none of their scooters will be parked that long.

    However If anyone from Scoot Networks is reading this, and I would certainly assume that to be the case, it would help their cause if they tried to be good neighbors.

    A simple step would be to have more of a physical presence. Send someone around regularly to check on their scoots and make sure they’re parked responsibly. Their property is out in the open, and they rely on the public’s goodwill to ensure it stays upright and in good working order. A little expense for a few roving Scoot Ambassadors could go a long way here.

  9. I am a Scoot user, have been for the last six months, and absolutely love the service. I have never owned a car in San Francisco, and have previously relied solely on MUNI to get around town ( I live in the outer Richmond but have commuted to work in Bernal). Let’s be real- MUNI kind of sucks. To get to work by 6am I had to take the 38 to BART and walk to Crescent ave from Glen Park. Scoot has allowed me to make commutes like this a bit more manageable without having to buy a car I can’t afford or pay the hefty taxi fee.

    While parking Scoot in my own neighborhood- people have vandalized it, left notes on it, etc.- as if because it’s not a car I have no right to park on my own block! I choose not to have a car because I think it’s crazy to be forced into having one IN A CITY. I choose not to bike because I’m not a strong biker (learned 5 years ago but never quite got caught the love-of-the-hills- burn).

    Scoot users are your neighbors, and just like there are some poor parkers in cars, there are poor parkers in Scoots ( I try to be as courteous as possible- now that Scoots ARE limited in where they can park). Please don’t blame the service provider or demand community meetings over the use of shared public parking in a city with lousy public transit. This has served as an excellent complement to where MUNI fails commuters in providing effective means of getting around the city.

    • Total agree with this (I am not a Scoot user)

      I love that the example photo of “bad scoot parkers” has enough vehicles to handle at least 4 peoples transportation needs in the space of one SUV (and maybe more since it looks like 2 mopeds are out being used)

      I think there is a generational issue at work here as well. Fewer and fewer young people are even getting drivers license (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/08/07/why-arent-young-people-getting-drivers-licenses-too-much-hassle/) and fewer are owning their own cars.

      Why should I spend $15k on a car which may just sit to be used a couple times a month.

      An interesting Bernalwood investigative article would be to track the turnover on Precita or Mirabel or Coleridge over a week. My gut tells me the 50% of the cars wouldn’t move.

    • Muni “sucks” ONLY because people are taking cars and scooters to and from work. The Muni buses and streetcars are going as fast as they can under the circumstances. Change the circumstances by reducing cars and scooters and the Muni time problem will be solved.

  10. Some people will always be either clueless or discourteous, but next time you stumble upon a car or motorcycle or scooter taking up an awkward amount of room, don’t pretend you know what that situation was when they parked there. 1 scooter in the middle of a spot might have 4 others around it 20 minutes ago. Or not. You just don’t know.

    • Thank you!! As a scooter owner, this happens frequently. We tuck in between 2 cars, ensuring ample space for someone to move forward or reverse safely. When the next person comes along and sees the scooter there solo – just know that you have no idea what the scene was prior to your arrival!

      • It’s “get to know your neighbors” time. I mean, really, are people so ignorant of their neighbors that they don’t know who owns what car or scooter?

  11. Curious if Scoot pays higher registration fees for their scooters than someone who owns their own scooter and doesn’t rent it out as a business?

  12. Pingback: Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog San Francisco

  13. After living in Bernal for 17 years, my worry these days is the proliferation of larger parked cars on all our streets – can we realistically expect a fire engine to get through some places, especially on a Sunday night?

  14. For every scoot that is legally parked in a place that you don’t approve of just be happy it isn’t a SUV in that same spot. This is such a 1st world problem. Complaining about an electric scooter parked on the street because “I can’t find a spot for my car”. Give me a break people.

      • Doesn’t reading this blog distract you from your work with the sick and impoverished?

        ______________________________________

        In case gentle sarcasm doesn’t translate well to your screen:

        Every article published can’t be about The Most Serious and Intractable Problem Facing Humanity. (Which is, of course… plastic bags? No! Gluten. No! Big Oil !) The name of this blog is “Bernalwood,” not “The Strident Grad Student Humor Vacuum.”

        🙂

    • Let he who has never complained about life’s little annoyances cast the first holier-than-thou stone…

      🙂

  15. There seems to be a concern with the fact that a private company is making money off a vehicle being parked on our streets. But how much did the car owners pay Ford (or substitute appropriate brand) for the right to drive the car off their lot and park it on our streets? Vehicle sharing isn’t innately different than ownership in that they both involve some company making some money in exchange for folks having a way to get around. Those Scoots are here because they are your neighbor’s vehicles, just like your Ford is yours. Yes, some of your neighbors are better at parking than others, but vehicle sharing doesn’t change that. (And maybe even because they’re shared, it means less total vehicles needing to be parked around! Sounds like a win-win to me!)

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