It seems someone has a vendetta against the electric scooters sprinkled throughout the streets of St. Paul.
A representative from Spin — a San Francisco-based company whose black-and-orange scooters are one of two brands populating the city — filed a police report Friday claiming dozens of its vehicles were intentionally damaged last week, St. Paul police spokesman Steve Linders said.
Over the course of three days, 49 Spin scooters were smashed into the ground, mangling their handlebars, frames or sensors, the company told police. A few of the scooters’ brake lines were cut.
Linders said someone called 911 on Thursday — the day 31 scooters were damaged, according to Spin — to report a man picking up scooters and slamming them down near 5th and Sibley streets. By the time officers responded, the man had fled.
Spin said in a statement that it looks forward to “getting the vehicles back on the roads soon — and [it] will continue to train our operations team to remain vigilant of vandalism.” The company told police that repairs could cost up to $1,125 per scooter.
The dockless scooters, which first came to the Twin Cities last summer, can be unlocked for about $1 by users with a smartphone app and cost about 15 cents per minute of ride time.
Their arrival caused some controversy when vendors Lime and Bird unexpectedly introduced their fleets to the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul, leaving city officials scrambling to develop new regulations. This year, St. Paul entered a contract allowing Spin and Lime to place up to 500 scooters each in different parts of the city.
The destruction of the scooters is “very strange and certainly disappointing,” said Linders, who added that it is the first report St. Paul police have received about damage to the popular devices. Minneapolis officials said they weren’t aware of any attacks on the city’s scooter fleets.
But other scooter-friendly cities around the country have encountered problems. Last week, divers in Portland, Ore., fished more than 50 scooters out of the Willamette River, the Oregonian reported.
Linders said police are investigating the local incidents but don’t yet know if the vandalism was coordinated by any one person or group.
Some St. Paul residents, however, have noticed a trend.
Tom Basgen, 31, said he was at Groundswell, a coffee shop in the Midway neighborhood, on June 22 when he spotted a man picking up a handful of Lime scooters one by one and carrying them behind the building. Each time, Basgen said he heard “the telltale clunk of the dumpster lid.” He went around the back to investigate.
Sure enough, the man was hefting the scooters into the trash, Basgen said, and a copy of a Los Angeles Times column decrying the dangers of electric scooters was attached to the bin.
“He told me, ‘This is where they go. They’re bad,’ ” Basgen said. “Then he pointed to the flier he had taped to the dumpsters like that was going to explain everything.”
Basgen posted photos of the man and the discarded scooters to social media, where they caught the attention of Nick Harper, 30, who said he saw the same column duct-taped to a scooter near the Capitol earlier that week.
In April, a post on the anonymous, left-wing activist blog Conflict Minnesota called for the “creative destruction” of scooters in the Twin Cities, claiming they are “emblematic of a way of living in which every aspect of our lives is made into data.”
Whatever the reasoning behind the vandalism, Basgen said he thinks the destruction of the scooters is wrong — though he’s found the St. Paul scooter saga a bit amusing.
“I really don’t understand the animosity towards them,” he said.