Scooter: Use is rising. Courtesy image

Bird might want to take on the phoenix as their official mascot because scooter companies are rising from the dead post-covid.

After use plummeted during the pandemic, micromobility trips are rapidly rising prompting questions about whether more devices and companies will be allowed to enter the City.

Shared mobility trips across the City have doubled since the start of the year, going from 44,799 trips in January to 88,023 trips in April. In popular areas like Downtown, numbers have tripled.

While these rates remain well below the peak of 343,359 trips reached in August 2019, there is a clear trend of rebounding e-bike and e-scooter use. As the City’s shared mobility pilot program is scheduled to expire at the end of June, residents can expect to see a shake up of both the number and variety of device options.

Prior to the pandemic, 3,250 devices were deployed across the City and four licensed companies competed for a slice of the micromobility pie.

This shrank to two companies and a few hundred devices last spring, as ridership plummeted and Jump and Lime pulled out of Santa Monica. Then in November, the City ended its breeze bikeshare program due to low use and revenue rates.

Now, change is afoot. Eight companies have submitted applications to participate in the City’s second shared mobility pilot program. This week, Metro relaunched its Westside Bike Share System, which has three docks along the E-line in Santa Monica and four docks along the border between Ocean Park and Venice.

“The City definitely sees the value of shared mobility; It’s a great opportunity to replace short car trips, which will help reduce our congestion and pollution levels,” said City Senior Transportation planner, Kyle Kozar, adding that he expects trip numbers to continue increasing throughout the summer.

Both the City and micromobility providers are gearing up for this predicted increase in use.

Bird, which is headquartered in Santa Monica, is preparing to launch a new program that aims to boost safety by preventing riders from using the new model Bird 2 scooters on sidewalks.

“We’ve been mapping out the city for the last few months and are making sure that we can roll out sidewalk technology prevention this summer,” said Tim Harter, director of government relations. “It will be really exciting for the city of Santa Monica to be the first city in the US to have that technology.”

By using the City’s GIS data and Bird’s internal data on rides in Santa Monica, Bird engineers have been able to create a geofenced map of the City’s sidewalks. When riders enter this boundary their scooter will beep and gradually slow to a stop.

In addition, Bird and the City are working to increase bike lanes and designated parking spots for e-bikes and e-scooters to help preserve the public right of way and remove tripping hazards.

There will also be more Bird ambassadors deployed throughout the City this summer, who will work to ensure rider rule compliance and provide tips to first time scooter users.

Lyft, the other current micromobility operator in the City, declined to comment on its plans to respond to the increase in device demand. Currently, the company has around 300 e-scooters and 300 e-bikes in use around Santa Monica.

By July 1st, the City’s selection committee and Chief Mobility Operator are expected to have made an announcement on which companies may operate in Santa Monica for the 2nd shared mobility pilot program. The City will also be in charge of approving any micromobility fleet increases.