SCOOTER WARS: 3 startups are raising hundreds of millions to speed up your commute — but they’re annoying everyone in San Francisco

electric scooter san francisco limebike

Electric scooters for grown-ups are taking over San Francisco.
Three startups — Bird, Spin, and LimeBike — have raised a combined $225 million in venture capital funding and rolled out hundreds of vehicles.
In their quest to disrupt transportation, the electric scooter sharing startups are annoying everyone in San Francisco by taking up space on sidewalks.
We talked with the founders of two electric scooter sharing startups about their bumpy rides in San Francisco, and how they’re trying to work with the city moving forward.

Imagine tech workers dressed in hoodies and Allbirds sneakers cruising down the streets of San Francisco on electric scooters — like Razor scooters for grown-ups. At the end of their journey, riders discard their vehicles on the sidewalk with little regard for the pedestrians behind them.

“San Francisco, I give you your mascot,” said a local artist on Twitter after such a spotting.

Since March, three startups have rolled out hundreds of electric scooters in downtown San Francisco. Their vehicles appeared suddenly, without much warning, and have since covered the sidewalks.

These startups let people reserve a local scooter from a smartphone app, ride for a small fee, and, at the end of the journey, leave the scooter wherever to be claimed by the next rider. Unlike existing bike-sharing programs, there’s no dock, so the scooters can be left anywhere.

Now, like Uber and Lyft in the ride-hailing market before them, electric scooter sharing startups are warring for the hearts and minds of customers and investors alike — while also battling with local authorities to be recognized as a legitimate mode of transport. Electric scooter sharing startup Bird has already gotten into hot water with civil authorities in the Los Angeles area.

Between them, Bird, Spin, and LimeBike have raised $255 million in venture capital funding to expand across the US. Spin and LimeBike, which started off by renting out electric bikes, expanded into scooters in February of this year, thanks to an influx of investment cash.

The clash isn’t limited to San Francisco: Spin and LimeBike cover dozens of US cities from coast to coast, while Bird operates in six cities, mostly in Southern California, as well as Washington, DC.

But San Francisco has become the key battleground, as some people living there find the proliferation of electric scooters has turned the city into a “petri dish for transit innovation.” The grand scooter experiment makes commutes trickier and headaches plentiful.

“A few weeks ago, I had

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