A joint ruling was issued today by the City Attorney of San Francisco, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and San Francisco Public Works. It orders the startups -- the most well-known being Bird, Spin, and Lime -- to remove their scooters and cease operations by June 4. Bird alone has more than 1,600 scooters in San Francisco, according to recent estimates by the company. [...]
Any scooters left on the street will be impounded, and could also result in daily fines of $100 per scooter. Refusing to remove its scooters will disqualify a company from obtaining a permit, said SFMTA.
This has created a problem that has not been seen before: voluntary, intentional, migrating, mobile, functional, litter.
The bikes and scooters are disruptive to the locations where they are abandoned and, because they are constantly moving, the issues of abandonment and refuse are constantly cycling (sorry) throughout an urban region. Yesterday's bike or scooter blight might be around today, or it might move for a few days and then return. In short, the bikes and scooters share a civic pattern similar to that of homelessness. Thus, in an unexpected way, the dockless bikes and scooters are also competing with the homeless for pieces of urban space upon which to temporarily rest. [...]
It is one thing to create a transportation sharing system with vehicles that require, either due to sufficient expense or size, some type of accountability or responsibility. It is another to dump a set of bikes and scooters in a city without racks, or places to "put" them. When companies "disrupt" the Commons by installing products aimed at "disruptors," there will be disruption. However, for those disruptive companies to expect their customers to then follow rules, is naive at best.
One argument against these transportation-share companies area is similar to one that has been made against Google busses, Uber, and Lyft: that these companies profit from using publicly funded roads, bus stops, and other parts of the Commons, without significantly contributing to their upkeep, and without concern for others within them. The strongest argument for San Francisco has been that the abandoned (parked) bikes and scooters are dangerous and create safety hazards.
We can see from the photo at the top that these scooters have a Particle Electron inside: that's a microcontroller with 1MB RAM, built-in cellular modem and 30 GPIO pins. It's like a $70 value! I haven't seen a breakdown of what other gear is in there, but it's safe to assume that there are two pretty hefty electric motors and a sizable battery. I'll bet you could make a pretty decent robot, or even a drinkbot out of these parts.
I eagerly await reading someone's "Instructable" tutorial on such a project. Maybe you can re-purpose this parasitic, Commons-destroying litter into something fun.
Please get on that.
But don't be a Joey. Disconnect the modem or pop the SIM before you take it home.
Given my general anti-car stance, a few people have expressed surprise that I'm so down on these (fucking) scooters. While getting people out of cars and into other modes of transport is generally great, I can't overlook the vileness of the business model of the people behind this. The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend. As the article above enumerates, these companies follow the same business model as Uber and AirBnB: "Move fast and raid the Commons". Build your business on by turning the majority of (what should be) your business expenses into "externalities" that you get someone else to pay for.
I call these companies "Landfill Capitalism".
Here's their business model:
- Get a bunch of funding from VCs;
- Dump a bunch of cheap, junk hardware onto the sidewalks;
- Have no maintenance or recycling plan;
- Collect underpants;
- Eventually be felled by the grim specter of regulation, from that slow-moving "legacy" operation we call "the Government";
- Go bankrupt,
close the doors, cancel your AWS account, and walk away;
- Leave it to DPW or MTA to drag all those now-bricked and un-ridable scooters to the garbage dump.
See? The Market works!