Santa Monica’s Bird Scooters will have to share their nest with an interloper now that competitor LimeBike has begun operating in the city.
LimeBike offers dockless bikes and scooters in several domestic and international markets. They began in 2017 offering traditional bikes, expanded to electric vehicles this year and currently operate in 32 cities (including Zurich, Switzerland and Frankfurt, Germany) and 16 universities.
According to City Officials, LimeBike has received the appropriate permits to operate in town and will be governed by the same rules as Bird including the recently adopted emergency ordinance that gives the city the right to impound scooters that obstruct the public right of way.
“They were issued their business license and vending permits,” said Deputy City Manager Anuj Gupta.
LimeBike’s system and pricing are identical to Bird. The scooters are available via a smartphone app for an initial fee of $1 and 15 cents per minute thereafter. Riders can pick up a scooter from wherever they find it and leave it at their destination. While Bird’s are black, the Lime scooters are white and green.
Santa Monica regulators have had a contentious relationship with the homegrown Birds. The City filed a lawsuit against the company that was eventually settled for $300,000 plus concessions from the company regarding its educational outreach and distribution operations.
Council also passed a recent emergency ordinance that specifies dockless vehicles are subject to the city’s vending regulations, established an impound fee of $60 when the vehicles pose “an immediate hazard or obstruct access,” and staff will return to council this year with additional information on regulating shared vehicle systems like Bird and LimeBike.
Both systems are required to identify private property locations for distributing their scooters and the companies are supposed to prevent their bikes/scooters from becoming a nuisance on sidewalks.
The local criticism hasn’t stopped Bird from expanding. The company began in Santa Monica last year and now operates in several Los Angeles markets, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington D.C.
Bird has also issued a challenge to other operators, including LimeBike, to adhere to a three-pronged pledge. Bird wants everyone to agree to daily pickup of the entire fleet to manage demand, limiting the supply of vehicles unless they are being used at least three times per day per vehicle and paying cities $1 per vehicle per day to fund infrastructure.
No one has signed up for Bird’s proposed pledge yet.
According to the company, LimeBike is attempting to provide an environmentally friendly option for local transit.
“By partnering with local key stakeholders and systematically deploying a fleet of smart-bikes that are enabled with GPS, wireless technology, and self-activating locks, LimeBike is improving urban mobility by making the first and last mile faster, cheaper, and healthier for riders,” said the company’s marketing materials.
LimeBike did not return calls by press time.