Popular e-scooters are spreading in Jacksonville

Popular e-scooters are spreading in Jacksonville
Popular e-scooters are spreading in Jacksonville

Micromobility will remain in one of America’s most sprawling cities.

The city of Jacksonville announced Tuesday a partnership with a pair of scooter companies that will expand their operations beyond downtown to Brooklyn, the Southbank and the Sports and Entertainment District.

Vendors Bird Rides Inc. and Lime will pay the city $24,000 annually to operate 200 scooters each in downtown and surrounding zones. The companies have a two-year agreement with the city with the option of a two-year renewal.

Riders in Jacksonville will be able to access the e-scooters through the Lime app and on the Uber app platform thanks to Lime’s integration with Uber.

Scooters from both companies will cost $1 to unlock and 49 cents per minute. More than 150,000 rides were purchased during a 17-month pilot program involving Bird and four other companies, the city said.

E-scooters have caused controversy in other cities. Supporters have hailed them as green transport solutions, but others have called them a nuisance for pedestrians. Some cities have restricted the scooters to streets and bike lanes and limited their speed.

The Jacksonville City Council passed legislation last June that regulated the hours the scooters could operate (from 5 a.m. to midnight), imposed a 10 mph speed limit on sidewalks, and encouraged the companies to coordinate with the Jacksonville Transportation Authority to place fences that scooters near transit stops.

Lori Boyer, executive director of the Downtown Investment Authority, said people should feel safe using scooters downtown.

“Downtown is a very safe place contrary to what you might hear,” she said. “Nor has there really been a safety hazard to pedestrians (or) injuries based on actual data.”

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Bruno Lopes, a senior manager of state partnerships for Bird, said Tuesday that the company’s deal with Jacksonville will “do wonders to alleviate congestion, reduce C0² emissions and provide equitable access to transportation for all of your residents and visitors.”

Bird, Blue Duck, Helbiz, LINK and SPIN participated in the micromobility pilot program that the city launched in March 2021.

The Jacksonville Business Journal reported in October 2022 that Blue Duck exited the local market in December 2021 and closed operations in January 2022. The other pilot companies were among the six that applied to be full-time mobility providers.

Lime is a privately held company that, a spokeswoman says, became the first in the industry to achieve profitability in 2022.

Bird is a subsidiary of Bird Global Inc. The Miami-based company reported total revenue of $72.8 million and a net loss of $9.7 million in its most recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing in November. In October, Bird announced it was pulling out of “small to mid-sized cities across the United States”

Lime spokeswoman Trisha Botty said the company may consider expanding here if the first attempt is successful.

“We want to be there to support Jacksonville in building (a) micro-mobility network of options, because not everyone has a car,” Botty said. “And we want to have that diversification and be part of the fabric that moves people in Jacksonville.”

Botty said the company will work with the city to synthesize the data produced from riders and share it with the city.

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