At Spin, we’re excited to help remake cities and campuses for people rather than cars. Over the past year, we’ve seen dockless mobility done right, and we’ve seen it done wrong. As we bring our scooters to new and existing markets, we’re announcing our Partnership Promise — to share with cities and universities the lessons we’ve learned about implementing dockless mobility responsibly, safely, and sustainably.
In July 2017, Spin became the first permitted dockless vendor in the United States. Since then, we’ve had the benefit of honing our approach with 39 cities and 40 universities across the United States. We’ve assembled world-class Partnerships and Policy teams to lead the charge, including Kyle Rowe, who developed the first stationless bikeshare permit at SDOT in Seattle, and Ted Sweeney, who brought bikeshare to the University of Washington as a transportation planner.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen competitors go rogue and launch scooters in Austin, Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte, Honolulu, and Scottsdale. In each case, the companies have done so without doing the hard work of first collaborating with the community and without getting any sort of permission from the local government. In several of these cities, the companies have gone rogue despite direct requests and pleas from the local government to not deploy scooters. Predictably, these companies have faced a backlash from the community and government officials. Scooter-sharing offers tremendous potential for solving first/last-mile transportation problems, but if we don’t clean up our act as an industry, there’s a chance we’ll blow it.
What Can Go Wrong
In a quest for first-mover advantage, some companies have unfortunately turned to the playbook used in the early Uber days of launching first and then leaving it to cities to pick up the pieces. The playbook looks something like this:
- Identify an appealing market, regardless of existing, applicable local and state laws.
- Launch scooters without consulting with the local government and then feign ignorance when there’s backlash.
- Get served a cease-and-desist letter, get their scooters impounded, and then feel out how serious the city is about ongoing enforcement.
- Hire expensive lobbyists to go unpunished for rogue actions, force the city to create a reactive permit written to the rogue company’s advantage, continue operating and expanding to maintain market dominance over the companies that have been collaborating with the city from the start.
- Leverage inflated growth numbers to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to squeeze out other companies.
Spin Partnership Promise
We believe that actions speak louder than words. We are committed to working hand-in-hand with cities and universities so that they can play offense, rather than defense, when implementing this innovative new technology. We respect the rule of the law and believe it’s possible to innovate while still upholding public safety and order.
Here’s what Spin is committed to doing moving forward:
- Never Launch Without Permission. In all of our markets, including San Francisco, where we have been lumped in with bad actors, we’ve never launched a market without first consulting with key government stakeholders. We first met with SFMTA on February 20th and launched a small fleet only after we were informed that our plans were legal and did not conflict with any existing laws. Despite our proactive outreach efforts in San Francisco to have SFMTA review our pilot plans and to make sure SFMTA did not have objections to our plans, we recognize that we could have done more outreach from the start. Today, we’re taking our approach a step further and committing to only launching new markets when we have permission to operate. We hope other companies will commit to this as well.
- Share Usage Data With Partners. The incredible transportation benefit that scooters provide is being lost in the shuffle. Since our launch, we’ve been actively sharing data with San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), and members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. We’ve already begun deploying scooters at key transit areas of interest based on feedback from the MTC.
- Put Safety First. We work with cities and universities to design custom user-education on parking and riding rules. We’ve also implemented a parking rating feature to help us reward good behavior and discourage bad behavior. In addition, we’ll be giving free helmets to all users who request them. Safety is non-negotiable.
- Scale Responsibly. We believe that allowing cities to have a say over the number of vehicles on the street is essential. Over the past year, we have found caps to be the simplest, most effective way of avoiding oversaturation and the chaos we’ve seen in some places where companies have free rein to replicate the Chinese model of deploying as many vehicles as possible, regardless of the actual market size and the negative impacts on the public right of way. As such, we are committed to only scaling our fleet when there is sufficient demand AND when our city and university partners are comfortable doing so.
- User Data Privacy Is Paramount. Our users can ride Spin scooters with the comfort of knowing that we do not sell their data to third parties or transfer data offshore to make a quick buck. There’s more than enough ridership to build a profitable system without compromising the privacy of our users.
Spin is committed to the five points above and looks forward to solving the first and last-mile transportation problem hand-in-hand with our city and university partners. We believe that dockless mobility — including scooters — can only succeed in the United States by partnering closely with local governments and universities, and we hope other companies will agree.
In addition to the Partnership Promise, we’re excited to share a model permit based on our work in San Francisco as a resource for other cities looking to responsibly permit dockless scooter-sharing. You can see a model permit application similar to what we’ve shared with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and other cities we’re working with on dockless scooters here: Model Shared Electric Scooter Permit.