Lime Will Let Customers Rent Electric Scooters and Bikes Without a Smartphone

Will that expand Lime's appeal beyond phone-wielding hipsters?

Tim Mena—Tim Mena; Lime

Scooter and bike-sharing services are growing in popularity, but in their rush to appeal to tech-savvy urbanites, they may be leaving others behind. That's because most services require a smartphone app to rent bikes and scooters. Now Lime is experimenting with an app-free alternative.

Lime began experimenting with cash payments last year in Seattle and Los Angeles through a pilot program called Lime Access. Now the startup is expanding Lime Access to all of its markets, and giving users significant discounts. Lime Access users get a 50-percent discount on rentals of electric-assisted bikes and electric scooters, and a 95-percent discount for conventional bikes.

After the discount, Lime will charge an initial 50-cent fee for an electric scooter rental, and 7 cents per minute of riding. At $2.60 for a 30-minute ride, Lime claims it will significantly undercut competitors. Rival Bird waives its $1.00 initial fee for low-income riders, but charges 15 cents per minute of riding. Lime also claims customers could take 100 bicycle rides for $5.00 using Lime Access discounts.

The discounts are tied to Lime Access' app-less payment method, which still requires a computer and some form of cell phone. Users must create an account by emailing access@li.me. To purchase rides, users print a barcode that's compatible with PayNearMe, which lets users pay for online services in cash. Lime then sends a text message with a code to unlock the bike or scooter.

Bike and scooter-sharing services are the latest Silicon Valley trend. Lime recently scored an investment from Uber, which will rent Lime scooters through its app, while Uber rival Lyft bought bike-sharing company Motivate. Unlike many of Motivate's bike-sharing operations, Lime is dockless, meaning riders don't have to bring bikes and scooters back to a designated terminal. This is more convenient for users, but has created friction with city authorities faced with streets strewn with discarded bikes and scooters.

Watch staff members from The Drive race around the office on an electric scooter. 
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