A Silicon Valley startup’s rentable scooters are not only clogging the Bay Area’s streets and sidewalks, but are threatening to call police on people simply for standing too close to them.
In a video posted by Guardian reporter Sam Levin, Lime’s e-scooters in Oakland, California, which are rentable for anyone who downloads their app and gives their credit card number, will blare a loud alarm sound and say “UNLOCK ME TO RIDE ME OR I’LL CALL THE POLICE” if anyone stands in their proximity for less than a minute. Twitter user Robert Prinz added that the scooters also threaten to call police if a pedestrian simply picks up the scooter and moves it out of a walkway.
— Sam Levin (@SamTLevin) June 7, 2018
Or when you pick them up to move them out of the pedestrian right of way and to a less obtrusive parking location.
— Robert Prinz (@prinzrob) June 7, 2018
“This is not only an annoying noise, this is a threat to people. For black people, that can really be experienced as a death threat,” said Oakland city council member Rebecca Kaplan told The Guardian. “Having a random voice yelling out, ‘I’m going to call the police on you,’ it’s really scary.”
The scooters have recently been banned in San Francisco, with City Attorney Dennis Herrera issuing a cease and desist letter to Spin — one of the three companies putting e-scooters on streets without having to obtain any government license or permit. Herrera said the company’s unlicensed products clogging city streets were “a public nuisance.”
“[M]y office has continued to receive numerous complaints from members of the public and city officials and departments about dangerous operation of Spin scooters,” Herrera’s letter, sent in April, reads. “We have compiled documented evidence that Spin and its customers are ignoring the requirements set forth in that letter and violating both state and local law.”
— Joe Vazquez (@joenewsman) April 16, 2018
A Lime spokesman told The Guardian that the company was revamping its scooters’ anti-theft alarm to remove the verbal threat to call the police. Levin wrote that despite touching the scooter and triggering the alarm for roughly ten minutes, no police responded to the scene.
Michael Boone is a freelance journalist and columnist writing about politics, government, race, and media. He graduated from Texas Southern University’s School of Communication, and lives in Houston’s Third Ward.