Bird Scooters suddenly shuttered their operations in Santa Monica Monday afternoon in a bold move to save their business here. The local start-up failed to get the endorsement of a key committee for the City’s official electric scooter pilot program launching this September. After flooding the City with scooters over the summer in an attempt to compete, Lime also failed to win the endorsement.
Instead, the official selection committee recommended awarding contracts for Lyft and Jump (which is owned by Uber) to launch their own electric bike and scooter operations here.
“This group inexplicably scored companies with no experience ever operating shared e-scooters higher than Bird who invented this model right here in Santa Monica,” a Bird spokesperson wrote in an email to local riders. Both companies planned to rally outside City Hall at 5 p.m. Tuesday as City Council officials show up for their public meeting.
Until then, Bird says their scooters will remain inoperable in the city.
“Please let city leaders know how much you have come to depend on Bird, and how you would feel if you woke up one day and Bird was gone – because they decided two car-based rideshare corporations should own all of Santa Monica transportation,” Bird said.
It’s not clear whether the companies will try to force an item to get on the official agenda Tuesday. Santa Monica’s public information officer said any public comment on the scooter issue will likely take place after midnight when all other business has been concluded. Planning Director David Martin has the actual say on which four companies out of the thirteen that applied will get contracts to operate dockless rideshare services in the city.
The City Council approved a pilot program earlier this year that will award contracts to two electric scooter companies and two bike share companies. Each company submitted a detailed plan for how their shared mobility fleets would operate in the city. The selection committee made up of city staffers and a Santa Monica Police Department Lieutenant scored each company on seven categories including experience, operations, compliance and safety.
Bird and Lime each performed poorly on the compliance portion of the assessment, which was based on their record with Federal, state and local laws, scoring half as many points on the metric as Lyft and Jump. Bird also scored low on their proposed plans for operations and public education.
Lyft scored highest in those areas, coming out the strongest on the assessment. In a post on the website Medium, Lyft’s Co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green said the Lyft app will soon integrate scooters and bikes, as well as real-time public transportation updates to give customers a variety of options for their commutes. The company has emphasized its commitment to sustainability, encouraging users to carpool through the app, rather than ride alone.
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the private and public sectors to work together to make our cities designed for people, not cars,” the co-founders said. “We see the introduction of bikes and scooters to our cities’ shared transit ecosystems as one more step in Lyft’s civic responsibility.”
Uber acquired Jump bikes earlier this year, promising to quickly integrate bikes and scooters into the app. The feature debuted in San Francisco in February, and the company said bikes rapidly began replacing car trips, particularly when streets were most congested with cars. While the number of rides booked on the app increased by 15 percent, it was mostly driven by the bikes, as car trips declined ten percent.
“The fact that demand for eBikes is currently constrained by limited supply (there are only 250 JUMP bikes in San Francisco) makes this all the more promising,” policy research analyst Santosh Rao wrote in a recent blog post about the data.
With names like ‘Drop,’ ‘Gotcha,’ Hopr, Razor, Scoot, Skip and Spin, the application process revealed the sheer number of companies trying to vie for a space in a relatively new and rapidly expanding industry. Leaders in cities across the country have been scrambling to update ordinances that do not address a brand new industry that relies on the ubiquity of their products for market dominance.
The report comes as Los Angeles appears poised to ban the scooters until regulations there can be approved and permits issued. Beverly Hills has also enacted a temporary ban on the scooters.
To read more reporting about scooters in Santa Monica click here.