Company Goes After Dockless Scooters Left on Private Property

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Dan Borelli (left) and John Heinkel (right) prepare to impound a dockless scooter left on private property in Pacific Beach on Jan. 24, 2019. (Matt Hoffman/KPBS)

Like many other cities in California, go nearly anywhere in San Diego and you're likely to see dockless rental bikes and scooters lying around. Much of the time those bikes and scooters are left on public sidewalks — but they're also often left sitting on private property.

The recently launched company Scooter Removal LLC lets private property owners report nuisance scooters and bikes. The company hauls them away for free, and makes its money by charging the scooter companies — including Bird and Lime — a fee to get their property back.

"I think we’re a part of that check and balance that was never applied in the beginning," said John Heinkel, co-owner of Scooter Removal. "I think that we’re creating a harmony between the companies that — they provide a service and they do have a right to exist — and that private property owner that doesn’t want them."

It's essentially the same thing that happens when your car gets towed after you leave it parked blocking a private garage. And that's no accident.

Heinkel also owns a towing company. His new company contracts with property owners, posts signs, then notifies scooter operators of areas where their property cannot be.

"Understanding that there are private property rights and there are places that those scooters shouldn’t be, and people have a right not to have them," Heinkel said.

Heinkel said since last July more than 6,000 scooters have been impounded with a handful of bikes. Companies have to pay a fee per scooter, plus a daily storage rate to get them back.