Lime, the Bay Area electric bike and scooter rental startup, has reduced the number of cities it serves in an effort to prioritize profitability, but the company is keen to return to the Mountain View-area market.
“Financial independence is our goal for 2020, and we are confident that Lime will be the first next-generation mobility company to reach profitability,” CEO Brad Bao said in a statement sent to the Town Crier. “We are immensely grateful for our team members, riders, Juicers and cities who supported us, and we hope to reintroduce Lime back into these communities when the time is right.”
Despite pulling out of several cities across the area last summer and parts of the world last month, Lime is ready to work with Northern California cities to establish regulations amenable to both parties, communications and public affairs rep Alex Youn said. In addition to heavily pursuing the Caltrain corridor, the company is ready to make like a newlywed couple and find a home in suburbia, including Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View.
“We are still in Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose,” Youn said. “Given our connection to the region, we are actively pursuing getting back in the suburbs.”
Although Lime has not made its way to Los Altos or Los Altos Hills, it was one of two vendors – Chinese-owned startup ofo was the other – that signed on for the city of Mountain View’s bike-share pilot program in May 2018. Prior to the evaluation of the program in October 2019, both Lime and ofo had withdrawn their fleets due to “a shift in their business priorities or conditions,” city staff explained on the webpage dedicated to the program.
Within this period of time, Lime, formerly known as LimeBike, dropped half its brand name and refocused the company’s vision to push scooters rather than bikes. ofo reportedly experienced a financial downturn as it worked to expand to international markets; today, its website is nonfunctioning.
In February 2019, the Mountain View City Council banned electric scooters in the city just months after signing on with the rideshare companies to dock a maximum of 800 bikes. At the time, Mountain View city staff cited “an absence of regulation” as the primary factor in outlawing scooters within city limits.
“Shared mobility device operations present serious concerns related to parking, sidewalk riding, user behavior, equipment standards and maintenance that negatively affect public peace, safety and health,” city staff wrote.
The move pushed out competing startups that also sought to bring their fleets to Mountain View, such as Bird and Jump. Bird, according to a staff report provided to the city’s Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) last June, was one of the initial three applicants for the bike-share pilot program. Jump submitted an application for a business license just days before the ban, the report indicates.
At the time, it had been approximately three months since any bike-share provider had offered services in Mountain View. Not only were residents lacking access to scooters, but because of inactivity, they were being denied access to green-minded bikes the city was promoting online. While BPAC had concerns about electric scooters – including the dangers of dooring, treating injured riders and the stability of e-scooters in general – members reported they would be comfortable recommending a scooter-share pilot program with “careful oversight and regulation,” the minutes from the June 26 meeting state.
Riding into the future
During the council’s evaluation of the bike-share pilot program Oct. 29, members directed staff to continue the bike-share pilot program and to initiate the concept of a similar scooter-share program. According to the city website, city staff are currently working to develop program requirements and fees before bringing the item back to the council. The project has not yet been placed on the agenda.
If the scooter-share program conditions are what Lime considers “agreeable,” Youn said the company would consider re-entering the city that once had approximately 350 of its bikes roaming throughout.
“As an industry, we have transformed a lot in how we operated since we first launched scooters,” Youn said. “We are working with cities and governments in order to operate. That’s why we are waiting on these regulations, and working with the city of Mountain View and others to determine what that looks like. We are very much diplomats.”