Can the Scooter Business Outlast the Coronavirus?

It's the end of the scooter as we know it.

2 minute read

May 11, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Coronavirus and Lime

Vlad Ispas / Shutterstock

Scooter companies cut back on service in the first month of social distancing and stay-at-home-orders, and the industry faces ongoing uncertainty now that as the United States enters a third month of social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

"Lime announced [in March] it will suspend its bike and scooter service in San Francisco, Washington state and some European markets, then doubled down on the suspensions by extending them to all North American markets and 22 countries [in March]," according to an article from March by Jason Plautz. 

"Bird told Smart Cities Dive that it had removed its vehicles from San Francisco and select European cities, citing a 'deep understanding of and empathy towards the cities, communities and people we serve.'"

The companies haven't always been in the driver seat in removing scooters from streets—Miami-Dade County, for instance, "barred citizens from operating any common-use micromobility vehicle," according to Plautz. Still, other cities, like San Francisco, made allowances for the vehicles as essential services (San Francisco cut public transit service all over the city in April). 

At the outset of the coronavirus public health crisis, shared micromobility devices looked like they might corner a larger share of the urban transportation market as people turned to bike share as they stopped using public transit and other shared modes, and evidence from Wuhan suggested the potential new demand for shared micrombility options after that city ceased its lockdown. As noted by Plautz, the current difficulties for the scooter share market comes at a key time in the industry's businesses cycle—riders tend to return to these systems during the warming months of spring and through the summer.

The reporting in May isn't much more optimistic. While Uber, recently announcing more a wave of layoffs in its ride-hailing business, is selling its JUMP brand to Lime (Lime acquired Jump thanks to investments from Uber, so the sale is still an investment by Uber). Industry observers, like Jared Newman, are already predicting the demise of the electric scooter rental business as we knew it, however briefly.

Friday, March 20, 2020 in Smart Cities Dive

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

Ice fishing tents surrounded by fence in Safe Outdoor Space for unhoused people in parking lot in Denver, Colorado.

An Affordable Housing Model for Indigenous Americans

Indigenous people make up a disproportionately high percentage of the unhoused population, but many programs designed to assist them don’t reach those most in need.

4 hours ago - High Country News

An electric bicycle is shown with the legs of a human who is riding the e-bike.

Oregon Bill Would Ban E-Bikes for Riders Under 16

State lawmakers seek to change Oregon e-bike laws following the death of a 15-year old last summer.

5 hours ago - Oregon Capital Chronical

Aerial view of canal cut into beach in Charlestow, Rhode Island with boats parked in sand.

Northeastern Waterways More Polluted After Wet Year

Intense rains washed more runoff into local bodies of water, while warmer temperatures contributed to the growth of an invasive bloom.

6 hours ago - University of Rhode Island

Senior Planner

Heyer Gruel Associates

Regional Transportation Planner

Crater Planning District Commission

Senior Planner- Long range

Prince William County Planning Office

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.