By Thomas K. Pendergast
Richmond District residents are going to have more transportation choices in the next few years, including car, bicycle, electric moped and scooter-sharing services. In a district with so many senior citizens this has some worried.
Several private companies presented their services at a public meeting on July 15 at the Richmond Recreation Center, hosted by District 1 Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).
SFMTA Senior Analyst Andy Thornley described a new form of car-share program that does not require users to drop off or pick up their cars at certain locations but instead is “free-floating.”
“Your standard car-share vehicle always begins and ends at the same place … but a free-floating one-way car-share floats around. You pick it up at one place and bring it back to another,” Thornley said.
He described a “home zone” or service area for the cars.
“This means that you can get a car in Oakland, use it for an hour or two then bring it back to Berkeley and walk away from it,” he explained.
“Someone else gets it in Berkeley; they use if for a while then bring it back to Albany. And that free-floating thing lets you do an open-ended trip.”
The SFMTA is proposing converting 20 feet of street parking spaces at each of seven locations in the Richmond District, reserving them instead for car-share companies: on the south side of Balboa Street east of 46th Avenue; the east side of 30th Avenue south of California Street; the west side of 10th Avenue north of Balboa Street; the north side of Geary Boulevard east of 34th Avenue; the west side of Funston Avenue south of California Street; the west side of 16th Avenue north of Anza Street; and the north side of Cabrillo Street east of 20th Avenue.
There is also a bicycle version with “bike-share,” wherein, for a flat membership fee, riders can go to bicycle docks and check-out a bike as they might books at a library. They can then leave it at any other dock within that system – what are called “point to point” trips. If the ride is less than 45 minutes, there would be no extra charge.
There is also a dock-less version where point-to-point trips end with the person using a built-in locking device to secure the bike for the next person then just walks away.
The same basic free-floating concept is used with a “home zone” for electric mopeds and scooters.
During a question and answer period, someone brought up the issue of riding scooters on the sidewalk, which can be annoying and possibly dangerous.
Skip Scooter’s Regional Director Lauren Urhausen said they are discouraging riding the scooters on the sidewalks.
“Sidewalk riding is something that we’re really trying to monitor and let our riders know that it’s not an acceptable way to get around the city; they’re supposed to be in the bike lane,” Urhausen said. “So, we advocate for better bike infrastructure so they’ll use the bike lanes. But if you see sidewalk riding please send it to us. The things to look for are the intersection you’re at, the street location, and the time of day. The faster you can get it to us, the better.
“We’ll notify the rider if it’s a Skip Scooter rider. We’ll let them know that was incorrect behavior.”
Someone else asked why these scooters are allowed in residential areas and if they should not be restricted to commercial corridors, because the Richmond District has a high concentration of senior citizens compared to other areas of the City.
“We have 85,000 residents in our district and our district is trending younger and this is what we’re hearing,” said Supervisor Fewer. “I understand that there are people in our district who have moved in that actually are used to this mode and it is the mode that they choose.”
Fewer acknowledged that seniors are a large population group in the district at the moment.
“And so we are gearing things for seniors too,” she said. “We don’t want (scooters) on our sidewalks because we claim the space for seniors, people who are disabled and children, for example. But our neighborhood is trending younger and people are looking for different mobility.”
One woman said when she takes her children out with a stroller she never has problems with scooters blocking the sidewalk but instead cars blocking the sidewalks are a constant problem. Another woman, however, said she saw four scooters parked in such a way that it took up “a good portion” of the street parking, which made it more likely that cars would have to park across a sidewalk.
Legislation to move on these transportation alternatives is expected as early as this month or the coming fall.