Lime wants anyone with a desire to scoot or pedal to have the ability to enjoy its scooters and bikes. To help make that goal a reality, the company has expanded its affordability program nationwide. Lime Access supports low-income riders and those without smartphones or bank accounts by letting them pay cash to rent its equipment at a discounted rate.
The company has partnered with payments platform provider PayNearMe to facilitate the program. To participate, users who demonstrate enrollment in a federal, state or local assistance program must email Lime to set up an Access account, print a personal account barcode, then bring that barcode to one of PayNearMe's 27,000 locations, which are typically found at CVS drugstores, 7-Elevens or other convenient locations. They can then use cash to rent a Lime bike, e-bike or scooter. And they'll get 95% off a typical ride on a pedal bike or 50% off Lime's electric products.
"Our goal is to get more people on bikes and scooters," Lime Access program director Megan Colford told PitchBook. "We are always looking for the next barrier to break down. We don't know what's next; we just want to provide mobility for all, and we are going to continue innovating until we can provide that."
Colford added that the program puts Lime ahead of its competitors, though fellow scooter unicorn Bird also recently announced increased access to underserved populations. In July, the company launched One Bird, which eliminates the $1 base fee per ride for qualified users, who, as with Lime Access, are those currently enrolled in an assistance program. Without the base fee, Bird customers can scoot at a cost of 15 cents per minute.
FreebirdSpeaking of Bird, an online campaign to persuade San Francisco leadership to return Bird's electric scooters to the city's streets hit the World Wide Web this week. The company, with support from investors, has asked scooter enthusiasts to voice their support for Bird via its digital petition as it waits on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to award it the permit it needs to legally operate e-scooters in the city.
Each time a Bird supporter signs the petition, an automated message is sent to Ed Reiskin, the director of transportation at the SFMTA, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and others: "Please bring Bird back to San Francisco. While I understand the need for reasonable regulations, it has been nearly two months since I’ve had access to this affordable, sustainable transportation option. Whether I was running an errand or connecting to BART, Bird was a great alternative to driving or calling a ridesharing car service. I am anxious to have Bird available again as soon as possible."
A representative of the SFMTA told PitchBook that they are still in the decision-making process and don't know when they'll be granting permits. In an email to PitchBook, a Bird spokesperson said: "Advocacy and activism are important elements of this country’s DNA. Voluntary activism takes many forms including in-person demonstrations, emails to city officials, videos created by community members, and more. Bird has supported advocacy within our ecosystem at different moments in time to help provide riders and chargers with an easy and effective way to vocalize their support for environmentally friendly and equitable transportation options in their communities."
Investors also seem to be a bit aggravated. Roelof Botha, a Sequoia partner that led Bird's $300 million funding round earlier this year and subsequently joined the startup's board, took to Twitter to call on various San Francisco leaders, like Reiskin and Breed, to bring Bird back to San Francisco.
David Sacks of Craft Ventures, another Bird investor, similarly wrote on Twitter: "I just took action to bring back Bird scooters to our city, you should too!"
For background, Bird, along with competitors Lime and Spin, were asked to temporarily remove their scooters from San Francisco in early June when the SFMTA decided to pilot a program that would require scooter companies to vacate the city and apply for an official permit to operate scooters. This was after San Francisco basically became a dumping ground for scooters overnight and the city had to come up with some way to regulate the companies capitalizing on tech's latest mobility craze.
Ultimately, 12 companies applied for a permit, including Uber, Lyft, Ofo and Skip; the SFMTA has said they will only grant permission to five companies. Ofo's scooters, however, will probably never see the light of day. The company confirmed to PitchBook that they'd applied for an SF scooter permit but hadn't developed any scooter hardware. Since then, Ofo has announced that it is in the process of pulling out of most US markets after expanding stateside from China last year.
It's not surprising that Bird employees, and presumably Lime's and Spin's too, are getting a bit stir crazy. The deadline to apply to scoot in San Francisco was June 7, so the SFMTA has had more than two months to make decisions and award permits. Bird and Lime, in the meantime, have remained active in the neighboring city of Oakland. On top of that, both startups recently went global with scooter launches in Paris.
Related read: With Lime partnership, Uber scooters are on the way