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Why Bird And Lime Turned Off Their Scooters In Santa Monica And Urged Riders To Rally

(Photo by Ryan Fonseca/LAist)
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Anyone hoping to ride a Bird or Lime scooter in Santa Monica is out of luck Tuesday. The two companies took their own fleets offline to protest the possibility they might be shut out of the city's mobility pilot program, putting their future in the city at risk.

"We voluntarily paused service in Santa Monica to demonstrate the community's reliance on our scooters," a Bird spokesperson said, clarifying that the company is not closing up shop.

Bird deactivated its scooters Monday -- calling the action a "Day Without a Scooter" -- and Lime joined it on Tuesday.

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Bird and Lime have been the focus of a heated, divisive debate over urban mobility options in Santa Monica, Los Angeles and cities across the nation.

While riders applaud the electronic scooters as a cheap, environmentally-friendly alternative to driving a car around, cities have scrambled to catch up with regulation and accused operators of not doing enough to ensure rider and pedestrian safety.

Santa Monica's Planning and Community Development Department released a memo recently on its Shared Mobility Pilot Program in which the committee ranked the bike and scooter operators that had applied for permits with the city.

Based on seven categories, which included "Experience," "Compliance" and "Parking & Safety," the committee placed Bird 10th out of 12 scooter companies. Lime ranked fourth.

Because the committee is recommending that only the top-two-ranked operators be allowed to participate in the pilot program, Bird and Lime are worried they'll be left in the dust.

City officials said Bird and Lime "can continue service in Santa Monica under the terms of their current permits through September 16." The pilot program is set to begin Sept. 17 and is expected to run for 16 months.

"Santa Monica is not involved in any decisions that current operators make to stop or suspend service," city spokeswoman Constance Farrell wrote in an email to LAist.

On top of worrying about their uncertain future, Bird and Lime took issue with the companies that did rank No. 1 and 2. The operators recommeded by the committee to be chosen for the program are Lyft and Jump, which is owned by Uber.

"Giving complete control of sustainable transportation alternatives to Uber and Lyft is like giving Exxon and BP a monopoly on solar power," Bird said in an email to customers. "They have every incentive to only minimally operate the less profitable green option and direct customers to their more profitable core business."

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Both companies urged riders to show their support for the service by emailing Santa Monica city leaders.

Lime sent a similar email to users, asking its supporters to join them for a rally outside City Hall at 5 p.m. Tuesday to tell officials they want the company to stay in the city. Lime also offered an incentive for would-be demonstrators: a $5 credit for "all rides that end near City Hall."

Santa Monica officials are taking public comments regarding the mobility pilot program until 2 p.m. on Aug. 17.

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