Bird, Lime Deactivate Santa Monica E-Scooters for a Day to Protest Regulator Recommendations

A committee recommended that electric-scooter operations be turned over to Uber and Lyft.

byStephen Edelstein|
Bird, Lime Deactivate Santa Monica E-Scooters for a Day to Protest Regulator Recommendations

Startups Bird and Lime halted electric-scooter rentals in Santa Monica, California, for a day to  protest a recommendation by the city's Shared Mobility Device Selection Committee that could force them out of Santa Monica.

Last week, the committee recommended that Lyft and Uber-owned Jump be named as the two exclusive electric scooter-sharing operators in Santa Monica for a 16-month pilot program. The committee ranked Lyft and Jump higher in areas such as staffing strategy, commitment to diversity, and fleet-maintenance strategy. It also recommended that Lyft and Jump be awarded bike-sharing licenses.

Santa Monica has become ground zero for electric scooter-sharing. Bird and Lime began deploying their e-scooters on the city's streets several months ago, and the vehicles have proven incredibly popular since then. But city officials were blindsided by the flood of these scooters, and are now struggling to manage them. Citizens have complained of the scooters being left haphazardly on sidewalks and in entranceways, and city officials did not take kindly to Bird launching its e-scooter-sharing service without informing them first.

But Bird and Lime believe Uber and Lyft are elbowing in on their territory, and tried to mobilize users in response. Both companies shut down their Santa Monica operations to protest the committee's recommendations. Bird emailed users asking them to express support of the company to the city council, reports TechCrunch, and Bird and Lime hosted a joint rally Tuesday.

In a statement to TechCrunch, Lime CEO Toby Sun cited his company's greater "on-the-ground experience" operating electric scooters in Santa Monica as the main reason his company should be allowed to stay. While Uber and Lyft are much larger companies, and have been around longer than Lime and Bird, neither currently operates an electric scooter-sharing service.

"The Lyft and Uber applications to operate e-scooter sharing programs in Santa Monica demonstrate the desperate lengths [carbon dioxide] polluting companies will go for the purpose of undermining clean energy competition," a Bird statement said. "We at Bird are dedicated to replacing car trips with clean energy trips and will continue to fight against car dependency alongside our loyal riders."

Uber and Lyft are working to expand beyond their core ride-hailing businesses to bike and e-scooter-sharing services. Uber is investing $335 million in Lime, and will rent the startup's electric scooters through its own app. In addition to Santa Monica, Lyft has applied for a scooter-rental license in San Francisco. Lyft also recently bought Motivate, the country's largest bike-sharing operator.

Bird and Lime have to emphasize their own brand loyalty above general interest in scooters. Electric scooter-sharing users may not care which company operates the service, as long as the scooters are available.