Scoot Networks, Hyped Scooter-Sharing Service, Might Run Afoul of State Law

It's always a pleasure to see business blogs' miasmal coverage of Bay Area start-ups pierced by a ray of real journalism. On this note, we have SF Appeal to thank for asking an important question about a much-hyped new scooter-sharing service in San Francisco: Is it legal?

As the Appeal reports, it appears that the business model of Scoot Networks, an urban scooter subscription service that functions in a manner similar to car-sharing company Zipcar, might conflict with state laws requiring that operators of motorcycles and scooters get a special driver's license.

California Department of Motor Vehicles spokesperson Jessica Gonzalez tells the Appeal that users of Scoot Networks "would require" the special license, which is obtained through an application process that involves a driving test or classes.

The sticking point here appears to be whether a Scoot Networks subscriber falls under an exemption for the license for people who rent a vehicle for less than 48 hours. This is the position of company CEO Michael Keating, but Gonzalez says the ongoing subscription "overrides" the time limit for the exemption -- an opinion she says is seconded by the California Highway Patrol.

Keating tells the Appeal, "It would be a real pity if this thing got squelched because some kind of mid-level CHP thought that this didn't meet his or her idea of how California vehicle code should be enforced." He also notes that company representatives personally show users how to drive the scooters on their first ride.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, says there might be a way to "get the company in compliance" -- though it's unclear how.

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Scoot Networks
Scoot Networks

Thanks for asking the tough questions. We'll take any excuse to talk about electric scooters!

But we do want to clarify that to date we have only offered short-term rentals to our customers, something which CA law permits. Though we hope to someday offer convenient and affordable options to frequent riders (such as subscriptions) we will only do so when we know those offerings are in line with the regulations that are designed to make CA's streets safe. We believe that affordable, moderate-speed, electric scooters, if used instead of cars and taxis, will make SF's streets safer, and will work with local and state authorities to make that a reality.

Michael Keating (Founder of Scoot)@mbkeating:twitter 

slippery mike
slippery mike

brilliant idea!exactly why they want it shut down.

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