Bird And Lime Scooters Are Staying In Santa Monica — And 2 Other Companies Will Join Them

People ride shared electric scooters in Santa Monica on July 13, 2018. Scooter startups including Bird and Lime allow riders to park them anywhere that doesn't block pedestrian walkways, but residents in some cities, including here in Los Angeles, say they often litter sidewalks and can pose a danger to pedestrians. (Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Bird and Lime scooters will continue zipping around Santa Monica — at least until 2020— and they'll have some company. The vendors are two of the four selected to participate in the city's shared mobility pilot program, which is set to run for 16 months. The decision was announced Thursday by Planning and Community Development director David Martin.

The two other companies salted for the program are Lyft and Jump (which is owned by Uber), though they'll have smaller fleets than Bird and Lime. The program will place a scooter cap on the four operators:

  • Bird: 750
  • Jump: 250
  • Lime 750
  • Lyft: 250

Lyft and Jump will also take part in the bike-sharing side of the program and will be allowed 500 bikes each, according to the city.

Bird and Lime's future in the city had been in question. Santa Monica's Planning and Community Development Department released a memo earlier this month ranking the bike and e-scooter companies that had applied for licenses with the city. The committee said the top-two ranked operators in each category would be recommended to participate in the pilot program.

Bird placed 10th out of 12 scooter companies. Lime ranked fourth.

In his announcement, Martin noted that the two scooter companies "have incurred several hundred thousand dollars in fines due to the placement of their devices in the public right of way."

"While compliance issues have arisen since the introduction of shared mobility devices in Santa Monica, more recently, Bird and Lime have both shown a consistent and continuing willingness to work with the City to develop a practical and functional shared mobility device program," he said.

One of the companies that didn't make the cut was Spin, even though it ranked higher than both Lime and Bird in the committee's earlier report.

Spin wasn't happy. In a statement, the company accused Martin of "re-rank(ing) applicants so that two lower-ranked companies would magically come out ahead of much higher-ranked applicants."

"Unfortunately, the Director's decision shows that the City's words do not matter, that it will reward bad behavior, and that what has been a transparent, fair process can be upended by simply antagonizing city officials and staff," the statement said.

After their low rankings came out, Bird and Lime scrambled to improve their public image in the face of mounting criticism from residents, business owners, local government officials and law enforcement. That included a joint protest of sorts, dubbed a "Day Without A Scooter," where the companies deactiviated their scooters and later staged a rally at Santa Monica City Hall.

Lime made an online plea earlier this week, writing it hoped city leaders would "embrace these good-faith efforts and reconsider the recent proposal that would prohibit Lime from serving scooter riders throughout the community." Bird held a rider safety event that same day.

Santa Monica officials have not responded directly to Spin's statement, but city spokeswoman Constance Farrell said that Bird and Lime's one-day protest did not influence the final selection.

"The experience of Bird and Lime was an absolute factor that (Martin) considered in making his determination," she said. "And he found that to be particularly valuable."

Uber also released a statement, saying it was excited to bring its Jump scooters and bikes to Santa Monica and will "continue to partner with cities in the right way to bring more options to more people."

The pilot program is scheduled to begin Sept. 17.

LAist/KPCC business reporter David Wagner contributed to this story.

UPDATES:

3:40 p.m.: This story was updated to include statements from Santa Monica, Uber and Spin.


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