You may have heard of Bird, the new electric scooter company that has been taking over East Lansing. More recently, a company called Lime scooters are beginning to join the Birds.
Lime and Bird scooters have a similar purpose – both companies push the use of environmentally friendly vehicles for short trips. Lime is found in nearly 100 markets across the United States and Europe. Fourteen months after its launch, it is already north of 9 million trips and is hoping to continue getting the word out there of who Lime is.
“We want to capture any of those trips that might otherwise be in a car that don’t need to be 2-3 mile trips… why are people driving for that?” said Scott Mullen, Lime director of expansion for the Northeast. “We want to help people shift to a way that is greener, more fun, and more sustainable.”
When Lime was initially dropped off in East Lansing on Oct. 4, the city was already aware of the company after speaking with Mullen at the City Council meeting on Sept. 18. In contrast, when a Bird representative spoke at the meeting, the representative said his company dropped off the scooters without notifying the city, and that’s where the companies differ.
Lime’s Mullen said “We do come to cities before the launch. We met first with the city just last month here in East Lansing. The reason we do that is because if we work collaboratively with cities and all the local stakeholders and regional transportation, we can actually blow mode shift out of the water, and that’s really the goal.”
Lime knows that collaboration is key when bringing electric scooters to a new city.
“Lime came to City Council and discussed everything with City Council prior to their launch,” said East Lansing Chief Deputy Steve Gonzalez. “We certainly did have a heads-up that Lime was going to be deploying scooters as well before they showed up. It wasn’t a complete surprise like Bird scooters were.”
The arrivals of both companies were an initial shock, but now that the scooters have settled, community members and police departments are concerned with safety. In the downtown core area there is a lot of foot traffic and bicycle traffic. By adding another element of transportation close to campus, people using the scooters irresponsibly has caused problems.
“One of our concerns is making sure the Lime scooters are being used in a responsible manner,” said Gonzalez. “Another concern is when they are parked or when they’re left when the individual is done with their ride, that they are parked or left in an appropriate location so that they’re not creating any hazards or blocking the passage of traffic.”
The Michigan State University Police and East Lansing Police Departments have different scooter policies. On Oct. 2, the MSU Police Department impounded 100 Bird scooters on campus. Gonzalez explained that on campus, there are campus ordinances that apply to the use of Lime scooters and where they’re parked. When these scooters are in violation, campus leadership and the police department have taken a stance that they would impound those scooters. In East Lansing, there are no specific ordinances that would dictate that the the police should impound scooters.
The scooters have already been used by many students despite their short time here. One MSU student, Colton Sefton, uses Lime scooters almost every day to get back and forth between class.
“I live all the way on the edge of East Lansing, basically in Lansing, and I don’t have a moped or bike to get to class, so I depend on taking a Lime to class every day,” said Sefton. “These scooters have become my way of transportation around the city and I love the concept. They’re so cheap, so it’s nice that college students have a way to get around without paying much.”
Lime scooters cost $1 to start up and it charges by the minute as you ride. Once you open the app, it lists the directions for users.
“Lime makes it clear when you open the app to stay on the right side of roadways and to be as cautious as possible to stay out of the way of cars and pedestrians,” said Sefton. “Personally, I always try to stay in the roads and off sidewalks and from what I’ve seen a lot of people do the same.”
Mullen said he wants to continue working with the city and the police to ensure that they can give the community that ‘something’ that he thinks is truly needed.
“We’re not here to make a buck with a scooter, an electric bike, or bicycle,” said Mullen. “We’re here to help East Lansing get into the future in terms of mode shift. Traffic is crazy, congestion is crazy, so people are hungry for it.”