Electric Scooter

Bird and Lime Scooters To Leave Raleigh Due to City Regulations

Both companies say the city's restrictions are too burdensome to stay.



Come summertime, getting around will be a bit harder—and a lot less fun—in Raleigh, North Carolina. Bird and Lime, the popular electric scooter companies, are leaving.

"Despite our efforts to partner in good faith, the city has decided to impose some of the most onerous regulations in the country, and unfortunately we cannot continue to operate under such restrictive rules," a spokesperson for Lime told Reason. The company hasn't set a date for its departure, although its current agreement with the city will expire on July 31.

The restrictions include a $300 fee per scooter (up from $100), a 500-vehicle maximum, and rules around where users can ride and park. E-scooter companies allow riders to deposit vehicles on the sidewalk, as opposed to finding a docking station.

When the regulations were implemented in December 2018, Lime only had 300 vehicles scattered around town. But Bird had 1,100, forcing the company to scrap more than half of its Raleigh-based operation. That dramatic decline in availability will hurt the environment, they say, increasing traffic congestion and hampering the eco-friendly company's capacity to provide a sustainable (and exciting!) mode of transportation. Lime claims that every mile traveled via scooter offsets 350 grams of carbon emissions compared to driving.

It also stands to hurt some of the city's more vulnerable occupants, whose access to the cost-friendly scooters will inevitably fall. When Washington, D.C., mulled a similar cap, Bird's chief legal and policy officer wrote that such a move "incentivizes e-scooter providers to put their vehicles only in popular, high-density areas," as opposed to "historically underserved areas that would most benefit from an affordable and reliable transit option."

Bird will leave Raleigh by April 30. The company struggled to maintain its affordability amidst the $300 per scooter fee, adding an additional $2 base charge to the $1 required to unlock a vehicle and the 15 cents per minute to ride. Raleigh will reportedly use that money to enforce the new restrictions and create educational materials on scooter rules, according to The Raleigh News and Observer.

"Even when the City Council's high fees forced us to raise fares, we were encouraged by the loyalty of a growing community of residents who want to see Raleigh be an innovative leader on transportation, economic development and climate policy," Sam Reed, director of government partnerships at Bird, told Reason in a statement. "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."

Reed mentioned Charlotte, N.C., as a model for how the state can take advantage of the environmentally-friendly scooters without hindering their potential. The Queen City lifted its vehicle cap in January and doesn't yet charge a scooter fee, although they are exploring options for the latter.

"We work closely with cities around the world who really want to have low-cost, environmentally friendly transit for their residents," said Reed. "We have an awesome working relationship" with Charlotte, he noted, adding that Bird is "looking for ways to extend our partnership."

While its operations grow across the state, Bird's partnership with Raleigh will cease to exist—for now. That could change though, if Raleigh legislators are willing to take a cue from friendlier cities like Charlotte.

"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," Reed said.

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  1. I don’t live in a big city that has these things. Do people really use them?

    1. Ann Arbor isn’t exactly a big city (about 125K) but, yes, a lot of people seem to use them here. They appear vastly more popular than the dumb, expensive bike share bikes that the city and university have been wasting money on.

    2. I live in a big city that ha.. well, actually scooters were banned here so we just have the dockless bike shares. And while I’m skeptical of the business model, the city council is making it hard for them to do business as well. Because progressives love progress.

    3. They popped up around where I work in SoCal around January this year. I looked like there were 20+ of them inside a a couple of miles. I saw a few people riding around lunch and the scooters seemed to move around some. They were not even annoying to an “Get-Off-My-Lawn” guy like me. They disappeared completely from the neighborhood last month.

      The scooters seem to really well-built and are probably expensive. I don’t see how they can remotely break-even at a few dollars a ride, even without the government screws.

    4. Baltimore has them and they definitely get used.

      I sympathize with the companies; the regulatory attacks seem ridiculous.

      That said, I just don’t see the business model succeeding. There is no huge upside and there are a million ways to be killed by competition or stupid regulation.

      I think after a round or two of venture capital these companies are going to wither.

  2. “Bird” and “lime” raise interesting associations when in the same sentence.

  3. Sam Reed, director of government partnerships at Bird

    Cosmotarian Viagra

    1. Given how governments control profits, any business needs to control government to make profits.

      Regulate businesses at the cost of losing control over your government.

      Don’t regulate businesses. Let the participants in the marketplace do that job.

  4. Lime claims that every mile traveled via scooter offsets 350 grams of carbon emissions compared to driving.

    These scooters do not offset car travel. No one takes these scooters more than a mile or two. They may offset foot travel, bike travel, and maybe some bus rides, but any offset to personal car travel is negligible. And you can’t really plan to go somewhere in advance with these scooters in mind. You can’t plan a 5-10 mile trip expecting to walk a block and pick up a scooter because there may not be a scooter lying around at that moment.

    1. It reduces the cost of parking. You don’t have to find a parking spot near your destination. You don’t have to go trolling for a parking spot. You just have to find a parking spot near a scooter. Park there and scoot to your destination.

      1. But that doesn’t really offset carbon from car travel though. People parking a few blocks short of their destination and using scooters would be offset by people parking a few blocks past the destination and using the scooter to backtrack

        1. Eh, maybe… If people become more willing to take the first space available because they can scooter to their actual destination, they might spend less time circling the block looking for the perfect space. And unless you’re driving a hybrid, that low-speed, stop-and-start circling is some of the dirtiest driving for an internal combustion engine.

          But even giving them every benefit of doubt about human behavior, I’m skeptical of their claim.

  5. That could change though, if Raleigh legislators are willing to take a cue from friendlier cities like Charlotte.

    Haven’t you heard? They’re printing up educational materials on scooter rules.

  6. This is the outcome Raleigh wanted.

    It’s an example of when government wins, the citizens lose.

  7. 10 things wrong with that picture
    1. no helmets
    2. no collapsible steering pole
    3. no airbags
    4. no feet belts
    5. no directional lights
    6. no rear view mirror
    7. no catalytic converter
    8. no brake lights
    9. no child seat
    10. sexual harassment

  8. Wow. I am absolutely shocked that a city government would completely fuck up an exciting new technological innovation.

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