News

Lime ditches bikes for scooters, leaving cities in limbo

Mountain View to look for new options after locally operating bike-share companies pull out

Just nine months ago, Mountain View had hundreds of brightly colored smart bikes scattered throughout town for anyone to rent with the click of an app. But as of next month, exactly zero are expected to be left in the city -- or anywhere in the Bay Area.

In a feat of backpedaling, bike-share companies are swiftly pulling their fleets of rental bikes from Mountain View and a host of other Bay Area cities, saying there isn't enough ridership to make the business sustainable.

In a phone call last week, representatives from San Francisco-based Lime informed Mountain View officials they would be taking the last of their bicycles out of the city. Within the next month, Lime, previously called Limebike, is reportedly planning a similar withdrawal of bikes in all its other Bay Area cities, including Sunnyvale, Foster City, San Mateo, Burlingame and South San Francisco.

"The bikes were part of our original business plan, but they're becoming less and less of our mobility fleet," said Joe Arellano, Lime spokesman. "At this time, we felt it was the right moment to phase out the electric-pedal bikes for newer technology."

That newer technology is electric scooters, which Lime officials say can get up to eight times more riders per day than a bike. The company plans to heavily promote its newer electric scooters in the coming days, especially in cities like Mountain View that don't formally allow them.

Meanwhile, city officials say they have no immediate plans to sanction electric scooters. In fact, city officials are pinning their hopes to attracting a new bikeshare company to set up shop in town. Mountain View transportation planner Nate Baird said the city is currently in talks with a new company to provide up to 400 rental bikes in the city. He declined to identify the company, saying the deal was still tentative.

"From our end, this has been a successful program, and we really hope we can keep it going," Baird said. "We're hoping we won't have a huge gap in service in terms of bike-share providers, but we still have to work through that.

Mountain View and other Peninsula cities have had an uphill battle when it comes to nurturing a bike-share program. If properly implemented, supporters say the rental bikes could provide the crucial last-mile link to bring commuters from local transit to their jobs.

Back in 2013, the city installed seven docking stations for rental bikes using a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. After that funding ran out in 2016, city officials decided the service wasn't worth keeping because its low ridership meant taxpayers were essentially paying a $20 subsidy for each bike trip.

Last year, Lime and a wave of similar companies approached Mountain View, saying they had improved on the bike-share concept to make it more practical. These companies used smartphone applications and GPS navigation to allow bikes to be left anywhere in town, instead of being restricted to a handful of docking stations.

Last May, Mountain View officials signed a deal with Lime and Chinese firm Ofo to launch a pilot program for a maximum of 800 rental bikes in the city. City officials say the companies never reached that cap, but they did deploy hundreds of bikes throughout Mountain View, especially in high-traffic areas such as around Castro Street and the North Bayshore area.

It didn't take long for troubling signs to emerge on the business side. In September, Ofo, which was once valued at upward of $2 billion, quickly pulled out its bike fleet from Mountain View. As of December, the company's rapid expansion had reportedly left it on the verge of bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, Lime has been gradually decreasing the size of its bicycle fleet in Mountain View. Early on, the company reportedly had 350 bikes, but as of this month there are fewer than 50 left, Baird said.

Lime's pivot to electric scooters isn't so easy for Mountain View and other Bay Area cities. Bikes have a long history of use and existing regulations for operating on city streets, but electric scooters lack that policy framework. Under the city's current guidelines, scooters are prohibited in Mountain View and any company operating them will receive a cease-and-desist letter, Baird said. Several cities in San Mateo County recently have come out against having electric scooters in town. Like Mountain View, those cities expressed a preference for finding a new bike-share company.

In the coming weeks, Baird said Mountain View will be conducting a study of its bike-share pilot program to consider options for going forward.

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Comments

28 people like this
Posted by A Talking Cat
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 22, 2019 at 2:59 pm

A Talking Cat is a registered user.

The pivot to electric scooters is a great move for these companies. They're much more convenient to hop on or off, regardless of what you're wearing that day, and can be left in more convenient locations since they take up less space. Can't wait to see them come to Mountain View to solve the last mile problem.

Between Lyft, Caltrain, and electric scooters, it's never been a better time to give up car ownership. Hopefully Mountain View can make its infrastructure more human-friendly, to keep everyone NOT in a car safe!


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Blossom Valley

on Feb 22, 2019 at 3:22 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


67 people like this
Posted by Markets Rule
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 22, 2019 at 3:52 pm

All of this silly bike stuff started with government state and county subsidies and silly planning from the community. Now that these subsidies have dried up, firms say they can't make enough money. As some have pointed out, there are plenty of private bike rental companies and if they thought they could make money in MV they would open a store. Same goes for Zip rental carts. None of these companies can make money ( w/o subsidies) because there is not enough demand for these services. The advantage of scooters is that they go from point to point and can be parked anywhere. Unfortunately Im not sure if residents want to see scooters strewn across streets and sidewalks. ( See google bikes) The bottom line is that private companies will offer these services if they make economic sense. Do MV residents really want to subsidize these services. It will cost thousands of dollars per year.

The bottom line is that technology will lower the cost of transportation w scooters and uber and there is no need for govt to try and supply these services. Let the free market rule and see what happens


61 people like this
Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 22, 2019 at 4:12 pm

William Hitchens is a registered user.

As long as they take firm measures to keep both bikes and electric scooters off of our sidewalks and out of our cross walks (unless they are being walked), I wish them well with their plans. Scooters & bikes don't mix with pedestrians. That's what roads and bicycle lanes are for. Also, require laws that re


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Blossom Valley

on Feb 22, 2019 at 4:19 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2019 at 4:20 pm

Bike share is great for getting around town and bypassing traffic jams and full parking lots. Unfortunately, cities are crippling these programs by limited how many bicycles can be deployed and what parts of town they can be used in and where bike racks can be located. Lime is hoping to bypass some of these restrictions with scooters instead, but I bet the city puts a cap on the number of scooters they can use, which will cripple that program as well. The city keeps inviting more private cars into the city and discouraging all other forms of transportation.


2 people like this
Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Feb 22, 2019 at 4:23 pm

SRB is a registered user.

Hope they donate the bikes (unlocked) to folks in need...vs dumping them as has been done too often (so much for reducing our carbon footprint)

see: Web Link


14 people like this
Posted by Riptide360
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2019 at 5:17 pm

Riptide360 is a registered user.

I hope Mountain View sticks to bicycles. The pedal assisted ones work great and give you a work out. Scooters don't give you any exercise, and can't take bumps as well with their smaller wheels and are less stable with their stubby steering bar. I have crashed when attempting to hold a grocery bag in one hand and steer with the other.


8 people like this
Posted by Steve Peters
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 22, 2019 at 9:16 pm

I tried a Lime bike once on my daily commute, but they restricted the speed to 15 miles per hour. It would be one thing if they turned off the assist at 15 mph, but felt like the bike was actively braking when I tried to go the speed I normally reach on my road bike during my commute on surface streets (not the bike trails, which might have reason to have lower speed limits). I think that speed limit may have been imposed by the city, but it made those bikes unrideable for me. It's a shame because I think the bikes are safer than the scooters.


136 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2019 at 9:31 pm

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]
Not enough ridership to make the program sustainable. That's what I've been saying for years.


8 people like this
Posted by Peter
a resident of North Bayshore
on Feb 23, 2019 at 5:12 am

I hope MV allows the scooters. In Santa Monica and Venice the scooters make travel easy, fast, and fun. The parking around downtown MV is getting worse and worse. Having scooters would be a great way to get to Castro St and back.


148 people like this
Posted by James Thurber
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 23, 2019 at 8:14 am

James Thurber is a registered user.

Recent bike / rent / share concepts haven't generated enough revenue to stay in business. I suspect scooter rental / sharing issues will be similar.

Oakland is besieged with scooters, left hither and yon, everywhere. Mountain View, are you ready for something similar?

I believe that unless a person actually owns the product that they'll be unlikely to use it enough for it to be profitable to an ownership company.

Thanks for listening.


2 people like this
Posted by Safety Sandshrew
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 23, 2019 at 9:11 am

We don't even have bike lanes on El Camino Real in my area, and there's not a SINGLE permanent bike rack at my local Cherry Chase Shopping Center. The one portable bike rack there has been partially dismantled by gods know whom. Adoption is far more difficult when the infrastructure isn't there.

Seriously, how much would it cost for the city to paint some bike lanes on the road and install some bike racks? We just spent 23 M$ on a new community center; I think we can afford it.


158 people like this
Posted by open-minded
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2019 at 9:12 am

Before the City decides on the fate of scooters, please check with SF and other cities that have implemented them. I have heard folks are very displeased with the fact many ride the scooters on sidewalks to the detriment of pedestrians.


6 people like this
Posted by Reader X
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2019 at 9:26 am

A Talking Cat (resident of Old Mountain View) wrote:
"Between Lyft, Caltrain, and electric scooters, it's never been a better time to give up car ownership."

As much as it runs along a convenient transit corridor Caltrain is a lousy transit service to rely upon. It is frequently late, trains break down, it kills about a dozen people annually and it's not particularly affordable. The gallery cars (older silver Nippon Sharyo cars from the Eighties) are especially noisy.

Worse, Caltrain is particularly less convenient on weekends since they cut back frequency to every 90 minutes due to the electrification project, not to mention that there is no direct Caltrain service to the SF terminal (4th & Townsend) on weekends.

BART departures from Millbrae station are every 20 minutes on weekends. BART is loud, grimy, often late, and dangerous. Like Caltrain, people get killed on BART. Regularly.

Tokyo Metropolitan's Ginza line? Runs every *3* minutes on Sundays. Plus the trains aren't late. There are zero track fatalities on all Shinkansen lines in their 50+ years of operation.

As much as I love trains, bicycles and my own pedestrian legs, I'm not convinced of giving up my car in the near future.

If the SF Bay Area can get a public transit system as good as something in Japan, yeah, I'd be happy to consider dumping my personal automobile or at least scaling back much of my solo driver usage.


13 people like this
Posted by Nora S.
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 23, 2019 at 9:34 am

People can't walk a mile?

Or does "last mile" mean "last 3-4 miles" because VTA has cut a bunch of bus routes?

I have an idea: forget the bikes and the scooters. They discriminate on the basis of age and mobility. Let's subsidize public buses.


122 people like this
Posted by Polomom
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 23, 2019 at 9:37 am

Polomom is a registered user.

Web Link
San Diego is already implementing rules after having tested bikes/scooters.
I personally saw the conflict of pedestrians versus scooters on sidewalks in San Diego. Not sure we are ready to handle either one, and by the way just as many scooters were ditched in creeks in SD than were bikes ditched here in Stevens Creek.


16 people like this
Posted by Reader X
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2019 at 9:49 am

Okay, A Talking Cat, just for fun, let's enact a hypothetical but realistic scenario.

Let's say you are line cook living in San Mateo and working swing shift 3-11pm in a downtown Palo Alto restaurant.

Since you are responsible you prefer to show up for your shift 10-15 minutes early. The walk from Caltrain to the restaurant is five minutes and you spend a few minutes getting ready/changing. You also know that Caltrain is frequently late so you really think about deboarding the train around 2:30pm.

On Sundays SB430 arrives at Palo Alto at 3:16pm so that's a no-go, you're already late. The earlier SB328 arrives at 1:46pm, nearly 75 minutes before your shift. Fine, kill 45 minutes by having a beer at some bar before your shift.

And what about the ride home? On Saturday, the last northbound train departs Palo Alto at 11:02pm. You'd have to leave early, maybe while your colleagues are cleaning up the kitchen, something you are supposed to be helping them with. On Sundays, you are even more screwed. The last northbound train departs at 10:42pm.

If you're a weekday 9a-5pm cubicle rat living or working within a mile of a Caltrain station, yes, it's a transit option worth considering.

For many, Caltrain service frequency isn't sufficient to make it a viable and reliable commute.


148 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Mountain View and other local cities are being taken for a ride. Lime should not be allowed to put scooters on the street without a full environmental impact report. Scooters are much lighter than bikes and will no doubt find themselves thrown in creeks, on roofs, in gutters, etc. It has the potential for an environmental disaster.


220 people like this
Posted by Escapee
a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2019 at 1:30 pm

These bike/scooter companies are parasites. And their riders endanger others far too often. Ban them completely.


5 people like this
Posted by Get your own
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2019 at 7:41 pm

I gave up waiting for scooter share service. I just bought my own Xiaomi M365 scooter for $500. It’s awesome. It goes 16mph with a range of over 15 miles. Fry’s in Sunnyvale also has a great selection of other brands.

It really is a great way to get around. Go get one today!



3 people like this
Posted by Donur
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2019 at 7:38 pm

I have been taking the lime bikes from the caltrain station to work which is over a mile away.

I'm really hoping they will bring in the scooters soon. And I only plan to ride in the bike lanes.


27 people like this
Posted by Alex M
a resident of Willowgate
on Feb 24, 2019 at 8:16 pm

The business model will continue to be unsustainable as long as Google keeps allowing people to steal Google bikes. I see them all over the place. On street corners a suspiciously long distance from Google. Under overpasses. Abandoned in Stevens Creek. Once I saw a whole family, parents and kids, riding Google bikes together.


36 people like this
Posted by eScooters Banned by SJ State
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2019 at 9:40 am

These things are absolute Injury Factories! I know 8 people who live in SF. 3 have been smashed into by scooter drivers, knocking them down and causing injuries, 2 have had their spouses injured when they were run in to. 1 had a damaged car when a scooter ran a stop sign and hit him. The other two joke that it's just a matter of time for them.

They have just been banned by San Jose State because they are simply too dangerous when mixed into pedestrian, bike or car traffic.

They don't fit in with sidewalks or bike lanes and the results are all the well documented injuries.

Here's the story about the SJ State banning of these scooters: Web Link


13 people like this
Posted by Re: eScooters Banned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 25, 2019 at 10:05 am

Re: eScooters Banned is a registered user.

I agree, let's ban Injury Factories!

Last year, there were more than 40,000 deaths caused by motor vehicles in this country. That number has been GROWING in the last few years. More than 2.5 million Americans went to the emergency room as a result of a car injury last year.

If we're willing to ban scooters based on 3 injuries, surely you'll agree that cars have no place in our downtown!


8 people like this
Posted by Lime admits scooter dangers
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2019 at 11:27 am

Lime scooter continue to plague the communitites they are in with injuries for both user and non-user alike.
Please keep them out of MV!
Here's another story from just today: Web Link


20 people like this
Posted by Blindsided by one last month
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2019 at 11:43 am

Do we take actions for our streets that will INCREASE the risk of pedestrian injury, or decrease the risk of injury for pedestrians?

Lime scooters cause injury to those who choose NOT to use them.
MV is not set up with wide sidewalks so adding these to the mix will be a hazard to us all, but esp children and seniors.

We're talking about adding a NEW increased risk. One we do not need, no matter how many Lime workers come here to lobby and sing their praises.
The cities that have them hate them. 'nuf said.


2 people like this
Posted by @banned at sjsu
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 25, 2019 at 12:32 pm

“They have just been banned by San Jose State because they are simply too dangerous when mixed into pedestrian, bike or car traffic”

You have no clue what u are talking about. Fake news. All vehicles, bikes scooters, cars, skateboards, etc. are banned on campus. However, the police never enforce this ban. You can still use these vehicles to get to campus. In fact there are spots on campus to park electric scooters, and bicycles.


18 people like this
Posted by Nope. Read the article.
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2019 at 1:46 pm

@@banned at sjsu
The direct quote from the SJSU Police is contradictory to what your claims are. It says its a NEW policy and that self propelled scooters and bikes are STILL ALLOWED.

"The San Jose State University Police Department announced Monday a new policy banning the use of electric and motorized scooters, effective immediately. Electric and motorized skateboards and bicycles are also banned.

“Self propelled” scooters and skateboards are allowed. People can still ride bicycles on campus but must adhere to the 5 mph speed limit.

“The reasons for the new regulations are vast but as you can imagine, we have (had) collisions, trips and falls, and blocking of fire exits,” San Jose State university police said in a statement posted online. “This is a small list of reasons why SJSU has set these new regulations.”


10 people like this
Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 25, 2019 at 5:09 pm

William Hitchens is a registered user.

All bicycles, electric scooters, and any other powered vehicles that startup techies can dream up should be banned from MV sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian trails. As I commented above, wheeled vehicles are incompatible with pedestrians. Walkers and runners are highly vulnerable to ignorant and aggressive fools riding along at 4x the speed that people can walk. MV is promoting bicycle lanes in the streets. Let the "alternative vehicles" go on the streets too and keep them away from people who are walking. Cite anyone violating the anti-vehicle code with strict, extremely expensive tickets --- say starting at $50 for the first offense and doubling each time thereafter.


3 people like this
Posted by marknn
a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 26, 2019 at 9:49 pm

marknn is a registered user.

Very disappointed at Lime for pulling out of the electric bikes, and for Mountain View not allowing scooters. Either one is a great alternative for transportation within the city, I've used it more times that I could count.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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