Everyone knows Uber, the company that revolutionized the idea of public transportation by introducing a more private alternative to buses and streetcars and a cheaper alternative to taxis. But people might not know that Uber owns Lime, a company with a vision to introduce rentable, electric scooters to the public. A similar company, Bird, has already launched their scooters in Atlanta, and both companies hope to move into New Orleans soon.
As with Uber, an app needs to be downloaded before you can access the scooters. The app has a “Ride” button that shows available scooters on a map and allows users to scan the QR code on a scooter, which will unlock it (for $1) and allow the user to ride (for $0.15 per minute of ride time). The scooters have a maximum range of about twenty miles, so they can be used for many trips throughout the day. With widespread use, Lime foresees lower fuel emissions and less traffic from fewer cars on the streets. However, with greater usage of these scooters comes the need for monitoring that usage.
Lime’s website claims that you must be eighteen years of age and have a valid driver’s license to operate, but the app requires no verification of these to unlock a scooter. Additionally, while Lime encourages riders use the bike lane and to park on curbsides (and out of pedestrians’ way), there are currently no legal regulations ensuring that riders will do so. People are worried that these scooters will hit the market completely unregulated and become not only a nuisance but a hazard to the public. Since Bird’s introduction in Santa Monica, scooter riders have received almost 300 traffic tickets and were involved in nine accidents—just in the first few months.
One of the biggest issues worrying people, though, is scooter parking. The city doesn’t want scooters blocking sidewalks and businesses, but the company worries that too much regulation of where the scooters can be parked will defeat the purpose of getting users to their destinations and increase user disparity if scooters are reduced to already popular city locations.
Regarding their proposed launch in New Orleans, Lime’s Development Director, Todd O’Boyle, has been working closely with the city’s Department of Transportation to draft a pilot program and accompanying regulations that will test the company’s presence in New Orleans and allow the city to see how the scooters could be managed. After a trial period of six months to a year, the City Council will decide whether or not the program and proposed ordinances will work in the long run.