Bird and Lime are protesting Santa Monica’s electric scooter recommendations

Lime and Bird are protesting recommendations in Santa Monica, Calif. that would prevent the electric scooter companies from operating in the Southern California city. We first saw the news over on Curbed LA, which reported both Lime and Bird are temporarily halting their services in Santa Monica. Last week, Santa Monica’s shared mobility device selection committee […]

Lime and Bird are protesting recommendations in Santa Monica, Calif. that would prevent the electric scooter companies from operating in the Southern California city. We first saw the news over on Curbed LA, which reported both Lime and Bird are temporarily halting their services in Santa Monica.

Last week, Santa Monica’s shared mobility device selection committee recommended the city move forward with Lyft and Uber-owned Jump as the two exclusive scooter operators in the city during the upcoming 16-month pilot program. The committee ranked Lyft and Jump highest due to their experience in the transportation space, staffing strategy, commitments to diversity and equity, fleet maintenance strategies and other elements. Similarly, the committee recommended both Lyft and Jump as bike-share providers in the city.

Now, both Bird and Lime are asking their respective riders to speak out against the recommendations. Bird, which first launched in Santa Monica, has also emailed riders, asking them to tell the city council that they want to Bird to stay.

“In a closed-door meeting, a small city-appointed selection committee decided to recommend banning Bird from your city beginning in September,” Bird wrote in an email. “This group inexplicably scored companies with no experience ever operating shared e-scooters higher than Bird who invented this model right here in Santa Monica.”

Bird goes on to throw shade at Uber and Lyft — neither of which have operated electric scooter services before. That shade is entirely fair, but one could argue both Uber and Lyft already have more experience operating transportation services within cities and would be better equipped to run an electric scooter service than a newer company.

In addition to asking people to contact their city officials, Bird and Lime are hosting a rally later today at Santa Monica City hall. But given that most of these electric scooters are manufactured by the same provider and that the services are essentially the same, I’d be surprised if there’s much brand loyalty. Over in San Francisco, I personally miss having electric scooters but I really don’t give a rat’s pajamas which services receive permits. That’s just to say, we’ll see if these efforts are effective.

I’ve reached out to both Lime and Bird and will update this story if I hear back.

Electric scooters are going worldwide

Despite regulatory hurdles on a city-by-city basis, electric scooter companies and their respective services are continuing to make their way to markets all over the world. Earlier this week, for example, Lime announced its entrance into Madrid, launching hundreds of electric scooters in the Spanish capital. About a week before that, competitor Bird launched in […]

Despite regulatory hurdles on a city-by-city basis, electric scooter companies and their respective services are continuing to make their way to markets all over the world. Earlier this week, for example, Lime announced its entrance into Madrid, launching hundreds of electric scooters in the Spanish capital. About a week before that, competitor Bird launched in Paris and laid out its intentioned to bring electric scooters to Tel Aviv.

As Bird expands to international markets, it’s worth noting that competitor Lime has operated its bikes and scooters outside of the U.S. for quite some time. Last December, Lime brought its bikes to a number of European cities and in June, Lime brought its scooters to Paris. Lime also recently raised a $335 million round and teamed up with transportation behemoth Uber.

Nationwide, Bird, Lime, Spin, Goat and Skip have collectively deployed scooters in 33 cities. Outside of the U.S., you’ll find scooters from those companies in just three cities.

Bird and Lime are by no means the only companies working in this space, but they’re the two that have raised most the capital. Bird has raised $415 million in funding while Lime has raised $467 million. Bird and Lime are also the only two U.S.-based scooter companies that have gone international.

Over in the U.S., of course, the competitive landscape is an entirely different story. California is the main hot spot for scooters in the U.S., but they have also popped up in Texas, Washington D.C., North Carolina and other states throughout the country.

 

Unsurprisingly, regulation has proved to be an issue for many of these companies. In San Francisco, the Municipal Transportation Agency is currently reviewing permit applications from 12 electric scooter services — including ones from Lyft, Uber and Razor — looking to operate in the city. The permit process came as a result of Bird, Lime and Spin deploying their electric scooters without permission in the city in March. Fast forward to today and electric scooters are nowhere to be found on the streets of San Francisco.

The SFMTA initially said it expected to make a decision about which five, if any, companies would receive permits by the end of June. The SFMTA expects to finalize its recommendations and documentation “in the coming weeks,” the SFMTA wrote in a blog post last month. Once that’s done, the agency says it will work with companies to finalize and clarify the terms and conditions of the permit. The goal, according to the blog post, is to issue permits sometime in August.

As part of the 24-month pilot program, electric scooter companies selected to operate in the city will need to provide user education and insurance, share its detailed trip data with the city, have a privacy policy that protects user data, offer a low-income plan and operate in a to-be-approved service area. The city will allow no more than 2,500 electric scooters on the streets at any one time.

Last month, Bird tried to launch its scooters in Boston but regulators quickly cracked down, saying it would impound any scooters it found. And let’s not forget the drama that unfolded in Santa Monica, where Bird first deployed its scooters.

In Austin, D.C. and Portland, Ore., it’s a slightly different scenario. Over in Austin, dockless electric scooter startup GOAT says it’s working with the city to ensure its service meets the criteria laid out by regulators. Moving forward, GOAT says it’s actively working with other cities to pursue additional operating permits. Skip, which is trying to differentiate itself by being more heavy-duty, worked with city officials and lawmakers to ensure it had the green light before launching. In Portland, both Skip and Bird have received permits to operate electric scooters in the city.

With the sheer volume of capital pouring into these companies, along with interest from ride-hailing giants Lyft and Uber, it’s clear these scooters are here to stay. Whether cities like them or not, scooters are going to roll up. It’s just a matter of when and how many.

Lime is expanding its low-income program

Lime, the electric scooter and bike-share startup, is expanding its program for people with low incomes. Called Lime Access, the program enables people who qualify for state or federal assistance programs to access Lime’s fleet of vehicles at a discount. Lime first launched the program in May. At the time and up until now, it […]

Lime, the electric scooter and bike-share startup, is expanding its program for people with low incomes. Called Lime Access, the program enables people who qualify for state or federal assistance programs to access Lime’s fleet of vehicles at a discount.

Lime first launched the program in May. At the time and up until now, it enabled people to purchase 100 rides on pedal bikes for $5. But starting today, anyone who is eligible for state or federal assistance programs can access traditional pedal bikes at a 95 percent discount and electric bikes and scooters at a 50 percent discount per ride.

Those who are eligible can purchase credits via PayNearMe, a cash payment network that lets you pay for items and services from companies in person.

Electric scooter competitor Bird introduced a similar program called One Bird that eliminates the $1 fee to unlock a Bird scooter. Bird has raised $415 million in funding, while Lime has raised $467 million and, as of last month, partnered with ride-hailing giant Uber.

Bird’s electric scooters are going international

Electric scooter startup Bird, the one worth $2 billion, is going international. This does not come as a surprise given TechCrunch’s June report that Bird was looking to expand to Europe. Today, Bird is launching a pilot program in Paris to see how the electric scooter service operates in a city with more than two […]

Electric scooter startup Bird, the one worth $2 billion, is going international. This does not come as a surprise given TechCrunch’s June report that Bird was looking to expand to Europe. Today, Bird is launching a pilot program in Paris to see how the electric scooter service operates in a city with more than two million people.

“Paris is very forward-thinking on solving congestion issues and is one of the cities that’s dealing with the most congestion and pollution,” Bird Head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa Patrick Studener told TechCrunch.

Bird is also gearing up to deploy some scooters in Tel Aviv, where the company says it’s chatting with Tel Aviv University and some municipalities about making something work in those areas, Studener said. In Tel Aviv, Bird will charge 5 shekels to start and then 50 agorot per minute.

As Bird expands to international markets, it’s worth noting that competitor Lime has operated its bikes and scooters outside of the U.S. for quite some time. Last December, Lime brought its bikes to a number of European cities and then, in June, Lime brought its scooters to Paris. Lime also recently raised a $335 million round and teamed up with transportation behemoth Uber.

In Paris, Bird scooters will cost €1 to start followed by €0.15 per minute, which is exactly how much Lime charges. Bird says Paris city officials know the company is planning to deploy about 100 scooters in the city. But this isn’t an official partnership of sorts, Studener said.

“In both cities we’ve started conversations at the national and city levels with officials,” Studener said. “Our approach is to be very collaborative. Almost every city that I’m speaking to, their north star is very much aligned with our north star — and that’s reducing car ownership.”

Since launching last November in Santa Monica, Calif., Bird hasn’t always had the best relationships with city regulators. Upon deploying some scooters in Santa Monica, the city filed criminal complaints against Bird for the company’s failure to obtain a vendor permit. Fast forward to June, and the city implemented a pilot program to impose some regulations on scooter companies like Bird, Lime and others.

Studener and the rest of the European team is based in Amsterdam, though, Bird has not yet deployed its scooters in the Dutch city. As head of EMEA, Studener has his eyes on a number of markets but for this week, he is focused on “going from just being in the U.S. to going internationally. That’s step one.”

In response to a question about Africa, Studener said Bird is still evaluating which African markets would be ripe for Bird scooters.

He said, “I definitely am keen to get that solution there as well because there is especially a very young and innovative population there that are very quick to adopt new solutions.”

Bird and Skip secure Portland e-scooter permits and there’s already drama

Electric scooter startups Bird and Skip have landed permits to operate in Portland under a new pilot program that aims to gauge how the controversial form of micro-transportation will fit in the city. And already there’s a bit of drama, or call it skeptical-scooter feelings, scuttling about. The permits issued by Portland Bureau of Transportation […]

Electric scooter startups Bird and Skip have landed permits to operate in Portland under a new pilot program that aims to gauge how the controversial form of micro-transportation will fit in the city. And already there’s a bit of drama, or call it skeptical-scooter feelings, scuttling about.

The permits issued by Portland Bureau of Transportation will run until November 20, when the pilot program is set to end. Scooters could be available for rent as soon as this week, PBOT officials said.

The PBOT will conduct an evaluation of the program and survey Portlanders to determine whether scooters are compatible with the safe, efficient and equitable operation of Portland’s transportation system, the department said.

And while the official line from PBOT is neutral, there’s at least one staffer whose snarky tweet suggests that the scooters are something more repugnant: just another toy for tech bros.

It all started after PBOT tweeted a PSA about the rules for scooters. In response, one person wrote, “Instead of preemptively shaming and chastising e-scooter users PBOT should be bending over backwards to encourage this alternative. I would like @PBOTinfo staff to reread the climate action plan, bike plan, and comp plan to come to grips with the magnitude of their failure.”

A staffer within PBOT wasn’t too pleased and posted this retort.

“Or maybe they’re toys that tech bros leave strewn about, blocking corner ramps needed for people with disabilities. Also, people need to know the helmet laws for scooters are different than for bicycles. We’ll see how it goes during this pilot period!”

And then later, another tweet. This time the PBOT staffer tries to walk back the previous comments. Another 15 minutes later and it looks like that staffer’s tweeting privileges have been taken away.

The PBOT scooter skeptic, and the initial tweet that prompted the snippy response, is a symptom of a wider controversy bubbling up in densely populated cities throughout the U.S. as traditional car ownership — and the traffic congestion that comes with it — collides with public transit and newer forms of mobility such as ride-hailing, bike sharing and scooters.

The scooters have had a polarizing effect on residents living in cities. Some love the dockless scooter services because they provide a fast and cheap means of traveling short distances. Others loathe them, or more accurately, the misuse of them. (Scooters are supposed to be used in the bike lane, not on sidewalks.)

Still, the wave of scooters doesn’t appear to be slowing. Bird, for instance, launched in Portland and Cincinnati on Thursday. The company has launched in about 30 U.S. cities to date. Although not all of those have gone smoothly.

For instance, after Bird entered into Milwaukee on June 27, the city attorney issued a cease-and-desist letter and sued the scooter-share startup. The Milwaukee City Council is now considering a ban of all electric scooters.

Meanwhile, the streets of San Francisco remain scooter-less while the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency continues its review of the 12 applications from companies to operate electric scooters in the city. Bird, Lime, Lyft, Uber and others have applied for permits to operate electric scooter-share services in San Francisco. The ban, and subsequent permit process, was the result of several startups deploying their electric scooters without permission. 

Meanwhile, back in Portland, the number of scooters will be capped at 2,500, with each permitted company receiving a portion of the total. PBOT says it will continue to issue permits to companies that qualify under the pilot rules. In other words, Bird and Skip may soon have competition.

The PBOT is limiting the rollout, as well. Companies are allowed to deploy up to 200 scooters during its first week of operation. The department is also requiring that each company deploy a portion of their fleets in East Portland.

State law requires scooter riders to wear a helmet and prohibits use on sidewalks. Riders will be required to park scooters on the sidewalk close to the curb, so that scooters do not interfere with pedestrians, according to PBOT rules.