Lime says it will finally deploy 1,000 of its dockless, electric scooters in New York City starting tomorrow, August 17. If you live in the East Bronx, you’ll be able to unlock a scooter for $1.00 and then pay 30 cents per minute during your ride. Riders will be capped at a speed of 10mph for their first three rides, which increases to the standard 15mph thereafter.
It’s taken several years to get here. New York State for a long time banned electric scooters and bikes from operating on city streets. That changed with state legislation passed in 2020, but NYC was still free to control the implementation of shared programs at the local level.
The deployment by Lime is part of a pilot program announced last year that’s being launched by the city’s Department of Transportation. Back in April, the agency chose several brands to deploy scooters after issuing a request for proposals. Now that program is going live.
Appeals to NYC — As part of its inroads with city officials, Lime has promised to make its scooters an accessible option for those living in “transit deserts,” or areas where public transportation infrastructure is scarce. Through its Lime Access program, the company will provide free 30-minute rides to New Yorkers receiving public assistance, with any time exceeding that allotment costing just 4 cents a minute. It’s also making options for riders without smartphones to request a ride via text and pay with cash if they prefer.
To address safety — one reason why New York governor Andrew Cuomo was hesitant to ease up on e-vehicles — Lime will prohibit rides on sidewalks and will use geofencing to prevent scooters from entering restricted areas. Messaging in the app will encourage riders to wear helmets and ride in bike lanes, where possible.
Lime already offers electric mopeds in NYC, which it says makes it the only multi-modal operator in the city.
Public transit — NYC’s pilot program covers just one borough of the city, but it’s a good sign that New York is finally catching up to just about every other metropolitan area in the world that already allows shared electric vehicles. Ideally, public transportation should be able to service all transportation needs — cities don’t have a profit incentive and can charge low fees. But building such infrastructure is a very long, messy, and political process, so electric mobility companies like Lime have come in to fill the gap.
Electric scooters are at least fun to ride, and they fulfill the dual goals of cities to alleviate congestion and reduce pollution. A public-private partnership like Lime Aid can incentivize companies to assist residents who otherwise couldn’t afford to use scooters because the prices may be too high. If Lime wants to operate, it needs to work with cities hand-in-hand.
Fortunately, one of its biggest barriers to profitability has been the flimsy scooters that break apart quickly. But Lime says the generation four scooter it’s deploying in the Bronx is built to last more than five years... which is also good for advancing climate goals for reusability.
Electric scooter companies saw huge demand from investors when they launched several years ago, raising billions of dollars in short order, but have struggled to become profitable due to the poor economics of the scooters themselves and because of pushback by local governments. Lime’s biggest competitor, Bird, expects to become profitable by 2023.