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Bird, Lime Named Among Companies Allowed to Rent E-Scooters in Santa Monica Pilot Program


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

August 30, 2018 -- After being initially shunned, the two popular but troublesome startups driving the e-scooter craze in Santa Monica on Thursday were named to participate in a 16-month City pilot program testing how such devices will be regulated.

Lime and Bird were selected by David Martin, the City’s director of Planning and Community Development, as among four companies allowed to rent dockless electric scooters to the public during the City’s Shared Mobility Pilot Program, which kicks off September 17.

The two companies are each allowed an initial fleet of 750 e-scooters.

For rentals of dockless e-bicycles, Martin selected Lyft and Jump. The e-bike fleets are 500 for each company. They are allowed to start with 250 e-scooters as well.

The pilot program is primarily an attempt to rein in operations of e-scooters, which Bird debuted in Santa Monica last September -- without standard notice to the City ("Santa Monica Launches Pilot Program for Electric Scooters, Bicycles," June 13, 2018).

The small devices became wildly popular quickly as riders zipped through crowds on sidewalks and streets, also causing a crush of accidents, near-misses and considerable hostility from those who crossed paths with them.

Ordered by the City Council in June, the pilot program will allow each operator to start with an allocation of 750 devices, for a total of 1,000 e-bikes and 2,000 e-scooters.

“The selected companies bring a wide range of local, national and international experience that will contribute to a comprehensive and informative pilot program,” Martin said in announcing his choice of providers.

“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.”

His selection represented a comeback for Lime and Bird, whose relations with the City have been strained.

Issues have centered on licensing, various illegalities and safety concerns expressed by officials, police and the public.

Questions have been raised over whether people know how to ride the the small devices properly or don helmets when buzzing around the city.

Neither company, both of which are newcomers to the business world, did well in an initial ranking earlier this month by a special City committee formed to recommend operators for the pilot program.

Bird and Lime flipped the off switch for e-scooters for a day in retaliation, staging a rally at the steps of City Hall to protest after the committee recommended they be supplanted by Lyft and Jump ("Two Major Scooter Companies Rally Supporters After Snub From Santa Monica City Officials," August 14, 2018).

Both are owned by ride-share giant Uber. Neither has much background in devices like e-scooters.

In the interim, Bird offered to donate $1 per vehicle per day to be used for infrastructure improvement helping to make its devices safer.

Lime offered $1.5 million, also for infrastructure, if they selected for the pilot.

About a dozen companies submitted applications to be selected for the pilot program.

The City said Martin had conducted his “de novo review of the applications, public comment, selection committee recommendations and all materials,” before making his selections, which are final.

He was not bound by the recommendations of the committee.


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