Bird and Lime will be officially allowed to operate electric scooters in Santa Monica, along with Lyft and Uber, the city announced today.
Starting in September, only these four companies will be permitted to manage fleets of 2,000 scooters and 1,000 e-bikes in the city for the next 18 months. The idea is that those vehicle caps can be increased after the companies demonstrate that people are using them frequently and responsibly.
In an interesting twist, all four companies will be allowed to launch with at least 250 scooters to start. Lime and Bird will launch with 750 scooters each. In addition, Lyft and Jump (which is owned by Uber) will each have 500 e-bikes on Santa Monica’s streets.
“The city looks forward to working closely with each of these operators to identify innovative solutions that help create a viable, well-operated long-term shared mobility program in Santa Monica,” planning director David Martin said in a statement.
Santa Monica’s scooter share
The beachside city was among the first in the U.S. to experience the tsunami of electric scooters and dockless bikes on its streets. In response, Santa Monica has developed the most detailed regulations for these vehicles in the country, including creating a dedicated pilot program to work in partnership with a limited number of operators.
In July, a dozen startups submitted applications to participate in the pilot, including Santa Monica regulars Bird and Lime. Other applicants included scooter companies like Razor and Spin, which operate nearby but not in the city itself, and ride-hailing giants Lyft and Uber, which don’t currently operate scooters but have announced they will as part of their future plans.
Earlier this month, Santa Monica made its rankings of the applications public, listing Lyft and Uber as the top proposals in both categories.
Bird and Lime deactivated their scooters in protest, urging riders to rally outside a city council meeting and dispatch thousands of emails to the city’s planning department. The following week, the two companies collaborated with the city of Santa Monica on a safe-riding campaign.
Bird issued a response to the rankings that seemed to be an attempt to correct aspects of its original application, which was filled with spelling and grammatical errors. Lime did not follow directions and submitted one application for both scooters and e-bikes, but was not disqualified for doing so.
In addition to partnering with a limited number of vendors, Santa Monica is taking some of the most progressive steps to fund safe places to ride and park, issues which have become a growing concern for scooters specifically as their adoption rate skyrockets.
The city has created designated sidewalk boxes for parking dockless vehicles in a way that won’t impede the right-of-way. And a proposal from Bird to give Santa Monica $1 per scooter per day to pay for improvements became part of a international commitment from the company to help develop bike lanes in cities where its scooters operate.
Bird, which was founded in Santa Monica, recently signed a 58,000 square-foot lease in the city’s Colorado Center.
Other cities are also introducing stricter regulations for scooters and e-bikes. Today, San Francisco announced its scooter pilot contracts would be awarded to Scoot and Skip. (Lime had recently moved its headquarters to the city.) Washington D.C., which recently extended its pilot program, plans to require all dockless operators to incorporate locks into the designs of their vehicles.
Lyft recently purchased Motivate, the country’s leading bike-share operator, and Santa Monica will likely be the first place Lyft will debut its own brand of bikes and scooters. It’s unclear if these will be locked or dockless.
“The city’s decision to collaborate with Lyft deepens a partnership that will reduce vehicle congestion, increase public transportation trips and provide equitable transportation solutions to all residents of Santa Monica,” said Caroline Samponaro, Lyft’s lead of bike and scooter policy lead.
Santa Monica will be the first Southern California city for Jump’s e-bike share, which is currently thriving in several cities around the state. Jump’s bikes are notable in that they must be locked to a bike rack.
An Uber representative confirmed to Curbed that Uber will be operating and branding its own fleet of scooters, not using its existing partnership with Lime, which allows riders to book scooters through the Uber app. A story in Businessweek reports that Uber is developing its own custom-designed scooter, although this has not been confirmed publicly.
“Our ultimate goal is to reduce reliance on personal cars,” reads the statement from Uber. “We believe the best way to do that is to offer multiple modes of transportation—scooters, bike, cars, public transit and more—in one app.”