Politics & Government

Lime started scooter share program without approval, so city has shut it down

The city of Charlotte Wednesday said it would stop a scooter-share program by Lime. The city said the company does not have approval to operate the program.
The city of Charlotte Wednesday said it would stop a scooter-share program by Lime. The city said the company does not have approval to operate the program. Lime

The city of Charlotte said Wednesday that Lime's new electric scooter ride-share program "has not been approved by the city” and is shutting it down after a day of operation.

Lime — formerly LimeBike — launched the scooter share service with a demonstration Tuesday morning at a parking lot near the Bland Street light-rail station. On Wednesday afternoon, people were zipping in and around uptown on the green electric scooters.

Lime and three other companies — Spin, MoBike and Ofo — are part of a pilot program launched by the city in November. The companies are each allowed 500 bicycles, which can be parked on sidewalks and other parts of the city right-of-way. They are mostly found in uptown and South End.

But Lime never received permission from the city to use city sidewalks as a place to store scooters. The city said Wednesday it's stopping the program until safety issues can be addressed.

In a statement, Lime said it hopes to bring the program back.

"We have, and will continue to work collaboratively with the city towards a common-sense regulatory solution that prioritizes rider safety and accessibility, while maintaining our scooters as an affordable, transportation alternative for residents of Charlotte," Lime said. "We look forward to continuing to serve locals with a convenient way to get around, as we have done for more than 20,000 riders in Charlotte since launching last year."

Lime spokeswoman Mary Caroline Pruitt said the company had "several discussions" with the city, and told officials it was planning to bring scooters to the city. She said the company is working to "distribute the scooters on private properties, not in the public right of way or obstructing any sidewalks."

Since the city started the pilot program, the number of rides on the bikes has increased each month and the companies have said that Charlotte is one of their better markets.

Lime said Charlotte is the third city on the East Coast to receive the scooters, after Washington D.C. and Miami. It has also launched the scooters in San Diego, Austin, Texas, San Francisco, San Jose, Calif., and Los Angeles.

In March, people in Charlotte took just under 27,000 trips on about 2,000 bikes that have been scattered around uptown and South End. The average trip was 24 minutes, according to the city.

The electric scooters cost $1 to unlock plus 15 cents per minute and are unlocked with a cellphone app. That’s more expensive than the regular price of dockless bikes, which is $1 for 30 minutes. The bikes and scooters can be left anywhere.

In a statement, the city said "creating a high-energy, hyper-connected, safe community is a core component of the city’s vision. We are excited about the possibility of expanding our bike share program, and we have been in discussions with shared electric scooter programs."

But it added it is "focusing on public safety."

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs