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More than 3,000 Lime users contact city asking for scooter share

An email to Lime users.

Lime launched a digital campaign Wednesday to encourage its users to contact Seattle city leaders and ask them to allow scooter share. In just one day, the company says more than 3,000 people have done so.

Before ofo and Spin left town in July, people in Seattle were taking more than 200,000 bike share trips a month. But Lime reports that in markets that have both bikes and scooters, the scooters each get several times more use per day than the bikes. So there is big potential for scooters to carry a lot of trips, and all the city needs to do is write up some permit rules to allow them.

“Especially given impending major traffic challenges, we are committed to providing last mile mobility choices to this community and believe scooters should be a part of that,” said Lime’s Washington State General Manager Isaac Gross in an emailed statement. “Clearly, Seattleites agree.”

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At a time when Seattle is bracing for a traffic crunch downtown as buses get kicked out of the tunnel and the Viaduct closes, Mayor Jenny Durkan has proposed spending millions in an attempt to reduce traffic through fancy signal timing over the next couple years (hopefully they won’t just steal time from people walking like on Mercer Street). But when there are just too many cars, you can’t fix that with traffic signals. You need people to get around without cars.

So why is scooter share still illegal? It does not require any investment from the city and has the potential to carry hundreds of thousands of trips per month. Scooters can expand the reach of transit by giving people an easy, quick and cheap way to get to and from transit stations.

Seattle was a leader in launching bike share, but the city has fallen behind when we need alternatives to driving more than ever.

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17 responses to “More than 3,000 Lime users contact city asking for scooter share”

  1. Joseph Singer

    Seems as though the city has done a lot to sabotage bikeshare by putting onerous fees on them so they would pull out. A few months ago we were practically tripping over bikes from the three companies. Then the city decided they would sabotage it by feeing the companies to death. All that is left are the more expensive ebikes.

    1. M

      and less bikes overall. Definitely harder to find a bike for a quick trip now.

      Would love it if scooters came to Seattle. They were awesome in Portland.

      1. asdf2

        The less bikes overall is also something you have the city to thank for. The quotas are all per-company, so when Spin and Ofo leave, Lime is allowed to distribute more bikes than before to pick up the slack. The result is that fewer companies = fewer bikes. I’m not sure the city intended this; they probably didn’t anticipate Spin and Ofo leaving when they wrote the rules.

        I have also talked to someone from Lime who basically confirmed what we have all suspected, that with the new per-bike fees, pedal bikes are no longer profitable. It will likely be a matter of months before the entire Seattle fleet becomes e-bike only.

        This is a concern because, if the city wants the service to be affordable for low-income people to use frequently, keeping down the actual cost per ride matters far more than maintaining access for people without smartphones or credit cards.

        But…if the permit fees are essentially rent for the space the bikes take on the street, a pedal bike and e-bike take each take up the same amount of space, so charging them the same amount of rent, and pricing out less profitable uses of the spaces does make sense for a pure business standpoint.

      2. Of course someone from Lime is going to say everything was working great before the fee increase. Let’s get real: there is no way in hell pedal bikes were profitable at little over a buck a ride. Lime increased prices way more than would be warranted by that once their competitors were eliminated, which was going to happen, fare increase or no.

      3. asdf2

        True, but I’m referring to the much larger effective fare increase, when the pedal bikes all get eliminated, leaving the higher-priced e-bikes become the only option.

        Maybe this would have happened anyway, maybe not. But, every bike in the fleet must pay the city an annual fee, regardless of the type, and every pedal bike in the fleet necessitates one less (more profitable) e-bike in the fleet, Lime is pretty much forced to abandon the pedal bikes and move to e-bikes only, in order to stay in business, even without competition.

        My guess is the only reason it hasn’t completely happened yet, is that it takes time for them to build up their e-bike fleet – each time a new shipment of n e-bikes arrives, n pedal bikes are removed from Seattle streets to free up quota for them. This process continues until the last pedal bike is removed.

      4. Yes, it is obviously true that there will be a large effective fare increase for consumers. But if you buy the spin that this is the city’s fault you’re just buying Lime’s line. Privately-run pedal bikeshare might just be dead in the US. Most US cities are too car-centric, both in terms of overall layout and land-use and in terms of street networks, to be a suitable substrate for this type of business. (I don’t buy that article’s general optimism about public/docked systems based on relatively successful examples in a couple east-coast cities with unusual transportation and land-use situations by US standards, but that’s another story — as it regards Seattle, with Pronto we never had enough public support to make it through the tough early years everyone involved should have known were coming, so it isn’t clear whether that approach, done to its best, could have worked out).

        The brief private pedal bikeshare bubble was not on a path to financial sustainability. Pedal bikes that were attractive at little over a buck a ride aren’t nearly as attractive at the fare they actually have to charge to cover their operations (which have always been inadequate, at that). And that’s OK! Bikeshare is not necessary or sufficient for a mass cycling culture!

  2. Peri Hartman

    In principle, I think scooters would be a great addition to the mix. However, I want to see some evidence that the logistics can be worked out.
    – scooters are too slow for bike lanes
    – scooters could be dangerous to peds on sidewalks
    – scooters’ small wheels might have trouble on Seattle streets
    – the universal park-in-a-respectable-place problem

    San Francisco allows them. There are many similarities between them and us. How did they address these issues?

    1. asdf2

      “too slow for bike lanes”

      Probably true for those skinny bike lanes wedges between parked cars and moving cars, but for protected bike lanes, like 2nd Ave., downtown, I think scooters would be just fine. They would also work great on the Burke-Gilman trail. People jog on the Burke-Gilman trail all the time, so there is no reason not to allowed scooters there.

      “scooters could be dangerous to peds on sidewalks”

      Bikes can also be dangerous to peds on sidewalks. It ultimately comes down to rider common sense. Several years ago, I used to own a (non-electric) kick scooter, and I did ride on sidewalks, when the sidewalk was sufficiently smooth, and the street to fast and busy to take a scooter on directly. As long as scooter users avoid steep hills and slow down for bumps and people walking, it should be fine.

      “scooters’ small wheels might have trouble on Seattle streets”

      The Lime scooters have fairly big wheels, by scooter standards, which should make them relatively resistent to bumps.

      “the universal park-in-a-respectable-place problem”

      How is this any worse for scooters than for bikes? If anything, scooters take up slightly less space.

      1. Dave

        I occasionally encounter electric scooters or equivalent (whatever those 1-wheel hoverboards are called) on the BG. They fit right in – perhaps ridden a little too fast sometimes where busy but no worse than many cyclists. If anything scooters will be an expanded pool of users to push for the completion of more protected lanes.

  3. Michael Hooning

    My wife and I were in Salt Lake City last month, where Lime e-scooters are ubiquitous on downtown sidewalks. I have to say that the scooter operators were not any more skilled than the Lime bike riders I see in Seattle, and it’s hard to see how they will fit with the pedestrian traffic in our city where the sidewalks are less generous than in SLC. We were there on a Sunday, when pedestrian traffic is light; I wonder how it works on weekdays when things get busy.

  4. Breadbaker

    In Austin, the scooters were total menaces being ridden at night you could only see the lights coming at you, not the rider nor the scooter itself.

    1. (Another) Tom

      In Raleigh the scooters all shut off at 9 or 9:30pm so this isn’t a problem. Smart thinking too, keeps the drunks from killing themselves at bar time.

      Overall, I’m impressed with the scooters and hope they come to Seattle soon. It will be annoying at times sharing a bike lane but the upshot is that I think they have the potential to significantly increase support for bike lanes and infrastructure.

      There are a ton of people who would never get on a bike, E- or not, but who will step onto a scooter for a scoot. Especially people in business attire (no worries about slacks or skirts on a dirty saddle.) The first time someone does they immediately ‘get it.’

      “Hey, this alternative transportation device is convenient and fun but I need a place to ride it. Oh! The bike lanes are a perfect spot for this! Now I support bike lanes (or at least withhold my knee-jerk opposition) because I can envision myself actually using them from time to time.”

      1. asdf2

        This business of artificially shutting down transportation options at 9:30 bothers me. Not everybody out and about past 9:30 is drunk, and as the evening wears on, the bus frequency gets worse.

        You can’t just tell everybody heading home at 10 pm that their choices anre drive and uber, because everything else is daytime only.

  5. […] Seattle Bike Blog discussed a push for the city to allow the existing bike share program to expand to scooters. […]

  6. resident

    based on the wretchedly low quality of the Lime Bike fleet around town, I’d say that company shouldn’t be allowed to do anything— scooters, bikes, whatever— that uses our public spaces. I have tried many Lime bikes, and usually have to bypass multiple broken-down bikes before I find a useable one. And the useable ones generally have broken spokes, bent bars, low battery, or some other significant defect. And the customer service is appalling… I’ve tried calling to report problems, and I got the old-school “our computers are down, we’ll call you back later” dodge, with zero follow-up call of course. Lime is a crap company flooding the streets with low-quality product, trying to make easy money off of our public spaces, and I’m glad their efforts to bring scooters to Seattle are being denied.

  7. Joe Z

    It’s probably going to be e-scooters or nothing. As anyone who frequently tries to use LimeBikes knows, the current state of the fleet is not-so-good and deteriorating quickly. Over the weekend I got off the Water Taxi in West Seattle and there wasn’t a single functioning LimeBike out of a cluster of 20. I checked again today…all bikes still sitting there, no changes, no movement, no charged batteries. There’s simply too much maintenance to be done on e-bikes and it’s too difficult to pick up and move large numbers of them. The rental price is going to have to be double or triple what it currently is to keep the current system going–and at least personally I wouldn’t pay it.

    With the e-scooters, they are all picked up EVERY NIGHT and released in designated locations the next morning. There are less moving parts to break. A single person can easily fit a half-dozen in the back of their SUV or van.

    We tolerate Uber and Lyft but some of us can’t afford to take a car everywhere. The free-floating e-bikes are incredibly valuable to myself and many others and it would be a shame to lose them.

  8. DSKJ

    A word of extreme caution from Portland, where we’ve had e- scooters for 4 months. It has been chaos, and not a happy chaos. Scooter riders chronically and consistently ride on the sidewalks, both in crowded downtown and everywhere else.
    Predictably, the city transportation dept is in love with these scooters, and they are neglecting our 3- year old public/ private bikeshare program, which has been very successful.
    Scooter users dart unexpectedly into traffic and then onto sidewalks. They scoot in parks and on trails, against the law. All these rules are posted clearly on the scooters; users just ignore them.
    Seattle, be very afraid about the dynamics that scooters will unleash. You’re much better off sticking with e- bikes.

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