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What's All the Rave about Scooters in San Francisco?

Woman driving a scooter in San Francisco

Image courtesy of SFCitizen

The busy life of a San Francisco commuter is not for the faint of heart. Painfully confined bus rides, expensive taxi cabs and mind-numbing bumper-to-bumper traffic are all part of the city-living experience and can push your patience past the brink. 

Fortunately, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. And attached to that light is a small, motorized scooter which provides a cheap, fast and convenient alternative to transportation in the city. 

But, buying a scooter seems like a risk better left untaken, right? I mean, don’t people seriously injure themselves? Well, we can easily speculate the risks, so let’s consider the rewards.

Mobility poses the biggest advantage. Rides from North Beach to Golden Gate Park seem far less of an expedition as before. And trips to Ocean Beach no longer have to take up your entire day. 

“Getting a scooter puts every neighborhood in play, regardless of where you live,” said Tommy Griffith, who is a four year resident of San Francisco. 

Parking is the next big perk. While scooters are not exempt from neighborhood permit parking, most residents don’t bat an eyelash when parking in spaces too small for an average car. Otherwise, you can post up your scooter in one of the many motorcycling-only parking meters that have sprouted up all over downtown San Francisco.

Scooters also don’t cost a lot of money, to buy or maintain. Most scooters average 100-plus MPG, which is a far cry from your gas guzzling SUV. And low-end scooters will only run you around $600 on the open market.

Still, there’s something more to owning a scooter that appeals to the San Francisco way of life. Maybe it’s the rush of flying through lanes at 30 MPH. Maybe it’s the idea of being even more self-sufficient than you already are. Or maybe it’s something only a scooter-enthusiast can explain. 

“The ease of getting anywhere in the city quickly, cheaply, parking anywhere (is what drew me to buying a scooter), but it was mostly so I could carry a helmet around and look like a motorcycle-owning badass,” said Pete Fishman, a former scooter-owner and five-year resident of San Francisco.

Either way, scooters have become an increasingly prominent part of our daily commute. So much so that a company called Scoot Networks is hoping to bank off the trend. 

The San Francisco-based startup -- which has been coined the “Zipcar for scooters” -- is quietly assembling a small fleet of short-range, electric scooters around the city. In fact, there are currently 12 locations set up around various parts of San Francisco, but Founder and CEO Michael Keating hopes to expand his fleet of scooters to over 1,000.

Want to get on board? The service offers three different plans, the most popular of which gives customers access to scooters for $1/hour ($0.50/hr at night) with a $5 monthly membership. 

If Scoot Networks continues to grow, it may not be worth the extra hassle to maintain your own scooter. Companies like Zipcar have become increasingly popular with San Franciscans and for good reason. So it’s understandable where Scoot Networks could fit into the equation. But for now, it may be wise to give their service a quick test drive before you become a full-fledged scooter thrill-seeker. 

Do you own a scooter? Tell us in the comments!

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