SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Supervisor Aaron Peskin Wednesday joined with the mayor’s office in announcing legislation seeking to block a Chinese stationless bike-sharing company from launching in San Francisco without permits.
The company, Bluegogo, operates a system in China using bikes equipped with locks and GPS systems that users locate and access with a mobile app. Unlike the current bike-share system in San Francisco, bikes can be parked anywhere and do not need to be returned to kiosks.
City officials say the system can lead to abandoned bikes obstructing city sidewalks and streets and creating a public nuisance. It also violates a 10-year agreement the city has signed with Bay Area Motivate LLC allowing the company exclusive rights to use the city right of way for bike-sharing purposes.
The legislation announced Wednesday would strengthen local laws prohibiting the unpermitted use of city streets as a distribution platform for private bike share companies and other similar schemes, according to Peskin. The company could face fines for violations.
The news of Bluegogo’s impending launch has produced a rare moment of political unity in San Francisco, where public officials were caught off guard last month by the outcry over Uber’s unpermitted launch of self-driving vehicles.
The ride-booking company was only forced to stop its pilot program after the state Department of Motor Vehicles stepped in to revoke the vehicles’ registration.
“Every time these arrogant tech companies ask later for forgiveness or ask later for permission,” Peskin said Wednesday at a news conference joined by Supervisor Mark Farrell, who is acting as mayor while Ed Lee is out of town. “This is the first time San Francisco is getting out in front.”
“We should have done the same with Uber,” said Peskin. “We wouldn’t have 45,000 cars clogging our streets.”
Farrell said that while he was proud of the city’s role as a center of innovation, the company needed to work “in partnership with the city and not in opposition.”
He encouraged the company to come forward and work with city officials.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, while in support of bike-sharing, has also joined with city officials in opposing Bluegogo’s plans.
Executive director Brian Wiedenmeier said current bike-sharing models have regulations in place to ensure safety and accessibility and performance standards, as well as permits to ensure some accountability.
“Bluegogo treats its bikes as disposable and public streets as dumping grounds,” Wiedenmeier said.
The legislation announced today follows on the heels of a letter sent by Ed Reiskin, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s director transportation, and Mohammed Nuru, head of the city’s Department of Public Works, to Gang Li, Chief Executive Officer of Bluegogo International Inc.
The letter asked Li to provide information on the company’s plans and warning that it will need to obtain permits and comply with all local laws.
City officials Wednesday said Bluegogo has not yet responded to the letter.
However, Bluegogo Vice President of Operations Ilya Movshovich said the claims by the city of thousands of bikes clogging streets are exaggerated.
“10,000 (bicycles)? Nowhere near that,” said Movshovich. “It would be impossible for us to be able to support that.”
Movshovich also said the goal of the company is to bring more bicycles to the city in an orderly fashion, not to have piles of them strewn about on streets as seen on some Chinese city streets.
Bluegogo’s cut rate price of $2 and hour is a lot cheaper than the standard rate charged by Motivate.
Peskin told KPIX 5 despite the exclusive agreement with Motivate, Bluegogo is welcome to talk to the city about what its plans are and negotitate, noting that Bluegogo’s contracts can be amended.
Until then, Peskin warned the company against launching its service. “We will confiscate those bikes, we will impound those bikes, we will sell those bikes.”
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