- Dockless scooter-share operators Lime and Bird demonstrated "A Day Without Scooters" in Santa Monica, CA on Tuesday to protest getting locked out of the city's scooter pilot program, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press and others. A city council committee released a recommendation for Lyft and Jump, operated by Uber, to participate in the city's bike and scooter pilot starting next month, but not Lime and Bird.
- Lime and Bird both froze operations in Santa Monica for the day, and scooter users were unable to unlock the devices. Supporters were encouraged to rally at city hall last night ahead of a city council meeting.
August 14th, 2018: "Today is a day without scooters" in Santa Monica pic.twitter.com/U3yPPe0DFN— Juan Matute (@Juan_Matute) August 14, 2018
T-minus 2 hours until our community rally @ Santa Monica City Hall. RT if you're joining us at 5 pm! We appreciate your loyal support! https://t.co/gI6sypfN2r— Bird (@BirdRide) August 14, 2018
- The operators also took to social media requesting that customers fill out online petitions to send to the city requesting that the scooter program be put on hold and a reevaluation be performed for Lime and Bird.
This protest sounds like a serious case of sour grapes by two companies that didn't win a municipal contract. The city's recommendation smarts particularly badly for Bird, which is the only Santa Monica-based company of the bunch.
However, Bird and Lime do have a point: They have months of on-the-ground experience operating scooter-sharing programs, whereas Lyft and Uber thus far have zero experience within that business sector. Still, trying to muscle into a pilot program through protests and petitions probably won't win the companies any points with city leaders.
Although dozens of people reportedly turned out for the rally on Tuesday, social media reaction to the "day without scooters" was mixed. Several Twitter users responded to the hashtag #LifeWithoutScooters saying that it was a life they want.
Protest?— Max News Media℠ (@MaxNewsMedia) August 15, 2018
Sounds like a gift to the citizens.#LifeWithoutScooters is a better life.
That sentiment reflects what appears to be a more widespread feeling in Santa Monica than in other markets where scooter-sharing programs have launched. Bird and Limes scooters already are on the Santa Monica streets, before the pilot has even launched, and residents are giving them mixed reviews.
Lime and Bird reportedly scored low on the city's operator assessment because of compliance. Santa Monica Patch reports that citizens, perhaps those who view the scooters unfavorably, have thrown the devices in garbage bins, portable toilets and storm drains. That doesn't play well with the city. While Bird and Lime's protest centers on them being the only operators who have experience in the scooter-sharing space, ironically that hurts them on the compliance front.
The situation in Santa Monica is the latest, and perhaps most escalated, in a growing line of conflicts between scooter-sharing operators and municipalities. Releasing scooters first and asking questions about rules and pilot programs later doesn't appear to be endearing operators with city leaders. That model has won over customers in some cities, but it appears to be a mixed bag in Santa Monica.