Electric scooter companies Bird and Lime are leaving Raleigh, they announced Thursday.
But one or more new companies may soon replace them.
Bird will stop operations April 30, according to a company statement. Lime hasn’t set a date, according to Todd O’Boyle, the company’s director of government relations.
“The bottom line is I want Lime in Raleigh for the long-haul,” O’Boyle said. “I just need a city partner I can work with.”
Under Raleigh’s agreement with the companies, Bird and Lime are allowed to continue operating through July 31.
“Unfortunately, Raleigh city officials refuse to amend their burdensome regulations on e-scooter providers, and it no longer makes sense for us to provide our service under the city’s restrictive leadership,” Bird said in its statement. “Our time in Raleigh must come to a close, but we hope to return in the future when city officials are ready to be more amenable to our business and industry as well as the needs of their constituents.”
The city set Tuesday as the deadline for companies to submit proposals to operate scooters in Raleigh after July 1. Neither Bird nor Lime submitted a proposal, but five other companies did, according to city spokeswoman Julia Milstead.
They are Bolt, Gotcha, Lyft, Spin and VeoRide.
“This is a business decision that [Bird and Lime] made,” said Michael Moore, Raleigh’s transportation director. “We are excited about the prospects of micro mobility here in Raleigh. We need to do it in a way that is fair and balanced. That we take care of riders, but that we take care of the other users on the sidewalk and street space. We want to make sure we are doing that in a safe way.”
City Council rules
Bird, followed shortly by Lime, both arrived last year without coordination with the city. Fans say they are an affordable means of transportation and efficient way of getting cars off the road. Others say they’re a hazard to pedestrians as riders often ride on sidewalks and leave scooters where people walk.
The Raleigh City Council created rules this past fall that regulated where riders could use and park the vehicles. The rules also capped the number of scooters at 500 per company and charged Bird and Lime a $300 per scooter fee.
“The regulations we have in place we thought balanced what was fair to everybody, but I guess [Bird and Lime] made a decision that what we have doesn’t work for them,” Moore said.
Both Bird and Lime signed the agreement in December, but they said the rules were some of the strictest in the country.
“The city drew up a procurement process that says go away,” O’Boyle said. “And we are leaving.”
Both companies said they saw strong support from the public but could not work under the city’s rules.
In January, Bird added a $2 fee per ride on top of the $1 needed to unlock a scooter and the 15 cents per minute to ride. The California-based company said it had to add the fee because of the city’s rules
Both Bird and Lime pointed to Charlotte as a city leading the state when it comes to scooters.
“We work closely with cities around the world who really want to have low-cost, environmentally friendly transit for their residents,” said Sam Reed, Bird’s director of government partnerships. “Charlotte, for example, has championed Bird and its value in the community. We have an awesome working relationship with them and are even looking for ways to extend our partnership to figure out how we can help them solve some issues related to parking and the like.”
What happens next
Several of the scooter companies did ask questions about the city’s proposal process, including if the city would lower its $300 fee and lift the 500 scooter cap for companies.
The city responded that the City Council sets the fee and would have approve any changes. The city also encouraged companies to submit suggested fleet sizes that the council might consider.
The five companies’ proposals are being reviewed and weren’t made readily available.
It’s likely that only four companies will be approved to operate in the city, Moore said.
Staff will make its recommendation and present those options to staff, likely in May. Then Raleigh leaders will have to vote whether to enter into the rules agreement. And the scooter companies will also have to sign the rules agreement.
The city will work to approve the agreements as quickly as possible, Moore said, especially in light of the Bird’s and Lime’s decisions.