Lime scooters are returning to the streets of select U.S. and EU cities

The company argues its single-person scooters can help with social distancing guidelines and assist essential service workers.

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Scooter startup Lime is bringing its dockless scooters back to a handful of cities around the globe in order to help healthcare workers get around. The company pulled its scooters from nearly every city it operates in as the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak brought the world to a halt and forced the majority of people to remain at home.

Under a new program called Lime Aid, healthcare workers and law enforcement officers can sign up to get free 30-minute scooter rides. Normal residents will be able to use the scooters as well, but Lime is stressing they should only do so for essential travel.

People still have to leave their homes under certain circumstances of course, like getting groceries for themselves, or for elderly family members. Lime today is essentially arguing that since scooters are meant to be ridden by only one person, they could be safer than getting into a bus or train where you're in close proximity to others.

“Micromobility plays a critical role in moving people seamlessly through cities, and as an individual form of transportation, scooters can help fill an integral transportation gap at this important time,” Lime wrote in a statement to Intelligent Transport.

The following cities will again see Lime scooters in the coming weeks, with the company saying more will follow:

  • Austin, TX
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Cologne, Germany
  • Columbus, OH
  • Dallas, TX
  • Nashville, TN
  • Norfolk, VA
  • Oklahoma City, OK
  • Paris, France
  • Rimini, Italy
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Washington, DC

Lime intends to present riders with a new set of recommendations when they rent a scooter, including to wash their hands and wear gloves while riding if possible.

“Lime is proud to partner with cities to provide scooters as an essential transportation option to reliably get frontline workers and residents where they need to go,” said David Spielfogel, Lime’s chief policy officer. “We remain committed to the cities we love and serve, and we recognize the critical role of micromobility in serving transportation needs now and as we emerge from this crisis.”

Coronavirus has hit Lime hard — While Lime's move here can be seen as an altruistic plan to help out frontline workers, the company is also suffering deeply as its business has all but stopped. The company laid off 14 percent of its workforce in early January and exited 12 markets completely. It's reportedly considering more layoffs, Bloomberg reports, having started the year with dwindling cash reserves.

Noble intentions notwithstanding, getting scooters back on streets could also help Lime generate at least a little revenue. And it's likely that the company would have a hard time justifying to local officials placing its scooters back on the streets without the Lime Aid initiative. But we're not going to begrudge it that.