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Lime is betting its new model can handle New York’s tough terrain

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The fleets of rentable electric scooters that have expanded to wide swaths of the United States and other countries have largely missed out on a key market: New York City.

Lime, which has operated a pilot dockless bike share program here since 2018, is hoping that’s about to change.

The $2 billion company opened up a storefront over the weekend to show off its newest model of scooter, the first to be designed in-house.

“This scooter is made for New York,” according to Lime.
Graham Rapier / Business Insider

“This scooter is made for New York,” Phil Jones, Lime’s senior policy director for the east coast, said in an interview about the new scooter, which features larger wheels, mountain bike-esque shock absorbers, and a new braking system.

Not only is the heavier, more rugged scooter designed for New York’s rough terrain, it should also last longer than its previous models, which can quickly wear out and are susceptible to vandalism.

Juicing — Lime’s term for charging its scooters, which is done overnight by contractors — could be tricky in New York. The new model weighs about 40 pounds, and could be difficult to haul into a walk-up apartment for charging.

Winter has also taken its toll on Lime, which racked up its massive valuation and global expansion in much warmer months. The company packed up hundreds of scooters in cities like St. Louis and brought them south for the winter where they can actually be ridden.

Still, Lime is hoping New York could warm up the company’s business in a big way. Already the largest market for ride-hailing, the city could soon legalize electric scooters (as well as medal assist e-bikes) and create a pilot program for companies like Lime, its larger competitor Bird, Lyft, and more.

Read more:E-scooters are sending dozens of people to emergency rooms — and the companies appear to have a double standard when it comes to safety

“We understand the issues New York City is facing with transportation equity,” Jones, who previously worked for the city council and public advocate’s office, said. “We want to be part of that solution by bringing real first-mile and last-mile solutions to all New Yorkers, especially in neighborhoods that are underserved.”

Graham Rapier / Business Insider

The midtown storefront is just blocks from Times Square and Madison Square Garden, and the nation’s busiest rail station.

While Lime is recruiting riders with free coffee and a mural artist, Bird has been giving test rides along the Gowanus Canal to local news reporters. Both companies are betting these small shows, all legally required to be on private property, can set the wheels in motion once a pilot program launches.

Then there are the New York-specific issues. Unlike most of the rest of the country, New York’s sidewalks are crowded — especially in Manhattan — and the bike lane network only exists on a tiny fraction of the massive street grid. What’s more, the city’s pavement is notoriously riddled with potholes and otherwise rough terrain.

“Here, it’s clear that it will be pushed to where it’s not happening in the middle of the street, but in bike lanes and on the sidewalk,” Jones said. “We want to work with the city to make sure that comes across properly and that people understand how to use the scooters.”

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