Santa Monica to allow e-scooter companies to take flight, but with limitations

Decision could mean further expansion from Bird and Lime

Aug.August 31, 2018 03:00 PM
Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden, and Santa Monica (IStock)

Bird is definitely the word.

After a drawn-out battle between Silicon Valley techies and city officials, Santa Monica approved four e-scooter companies — Bird, Lime, Lyft and Uber — to operate in the city, Curbed reported. By cementing the companies’ presence, the legislation paves the way for the startup tech companies to further expand in Silicon Beach.

But there will be limitations on the proliferation of the nifty transportation devices.

In September, Bird and Lime will be permitted to launch with 250 scooters, but capped at 750. Meanwhile, relative newcomers Lyft and Uber will be capped at 250 scooters and 500 electric bikes.

Combined, the four companies will operate 2,000 scooters and 1,000 bikes in Santa Monica over the next 18 months. As part of the agreement, Bird will also set aside $1 per scooter per day to help fund protected bike lanes.

Prior to Thursday’s decision, the future of Santa Monica-based Bird and other scooter companies remained unclear.

Earlier this month, Bird signed a deal for 57,000 square feet, or a full floor, at the Colorado Center, a six-building office campus in Santa Monica. Sources familiar with the deal said the lease was a short to medium-term solution as the company seeks to expand even further.

Yet that was all thrown into jeopardy when cities, like Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, issued temporary bans on the scooters.

City officials have been struggling with how to regulate the onset of the dockless scooters, which started arriving in California last fall. Riders sometimes leave them in the middle of pedestrian walkways or throw them on the side of the road.

Local residents have also taken matter into their own hands, vandalizing the scooters as a way to protest yet another tech company moving into the gentrified Westside.

But resistance is softening statewide, in part because the scooters offer another form of emission-free local transportation. In San Francisco, officials announced yesterday they will now allow Scoot and Skip — two lesser-known companies — to operate 625 scooters each for six months. The city had previously banned Bird, Lime, Uber and Lyft, and Spin, another e-scooter startup. [Curbed] – Natalie Hoberman

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