Lyft’s electric scooters hit the streets of Santa Monica

Lyft joins in on the scooter craze.


Lyft is getting a jump start in the scooter wars.

The ride-hailing company launched dockless, rentable electric scooters on Monday in its second city — Santa Monica, California. It rolled out the vehicles in Denver earlier this month. Its rival Uber has yet to introduce e-scooters to city streets.

“Lyft’s mission has been to improve lives through the world’s best transportation — reduce congestion, remove cars from the road, reimagine infrastructure,” the company said in a statement. “No matter what mode of transportation — bikes, scooters, cars, public transit — Lyft wants to be the navigator.”

Last month, Lyft got approval to operate electric scooters in Santa Monica, as did Jump, which is a bike-rental company that Uber acquired earlier this year. Scooter companies Bird and Lime also got permits. To get the permit from Santa Monica, Lyft said it’d offer discounts on scooter rides to low-income residents. The company said Monday that it’s committed to its promise.

While Santa Monica granted Lyft a permit, San Francisco regulators snubbed the company, along with Jump, Bird and Lime. The city instead gave permits to companies that have a clean track record of working with regulators before launching their services — Scoot and Skip.

Scooters have become a controversial topic across the US, with companies dropping them onto city streets with no forewarning to lawmakers or residents. Some people have been happy about this new way of getting around congested cities. But others have complained riders don’t follow the laws of the road, and endanger pedestrians by riding on sidewalks and leaving the scooters wherever they feel like it — blocking parking spots, bike racks and wheelchair access.

Santa Monica was the first US city to be inundated with the scooters. Bird kicked off its service there in September 2017. Santa Monica officials received so many complaints from local residents that the City Attorney’s Office filed a complaint on nine criminal counts against the startup in December. But things have calmed down since then.

Santa Monica announced a pilot scooter program with a permitting process in August. Under city rules, Bird and Lime can each have 750 scooters operating in the city, while Jump and Lyft each can have 250 scooters and 500 bikes. That number can increase or decrease based on their utilization and performance, according to the city.

“We’re working collaboratively with cities to roll out multi-modal transportation, including scooters, to ensure a seamless launch and that the new transportation will benefit residents and not disrupt the community,” Lyft said. “We’re monitoring the rollout, educating residents, and working directly with city officials and policy-makers.”

Lyft said it aims to bring scooters to 10 more cities by the end of this year. An Uber spokeswoman said the company is planning to launch scooters too, but she declined to share further details of where and when.

First published Sept. 17, 10:26 a.m. PT. 
Update, 11:24 a.m.: Adds additional background information.

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