With its path cleared by a recent City Council vote, at least one electric scooter operator is readying for its Richmond debut.
Lime, a Silicon Valley-based company that operates rentable, on-demand electric scooters and bikes in more than 100 markets globally, is preparing to launch in the city this spring.
Maggie Gendron, the company’s regional development director, said Lime will apply for an application to operate at least 500 scooters in Richmond.
Lynne Lancaster, operations manager at the city’s Department of Public Works, said the application is expected to be posted by March 12.
“If everything goes swimmingly, people will see our scooters on the ground in the springtime,” Gendron said, adding they’re undecided whether Lime will put bikes and e-bikes in Richmond, along with scooters.
Lime previously showed an interest in Richmond but has yet to put scooters on the ground or announce formal plans. A competitor, Bird, tried a more forward approach: It dropped flocks of scooters in Richmond at least three times last summer, only for the city to impound them.
Until recently, it was illegal for electric scooter companies such as Lime and Bird to operate in Richmond because the dockless vehicles would block the public right-of-way. Mayor Levar Stoney eventually wrote legislation that City Council passed in late January. It calls for Lime and its competitors to pay fees to the city based on the number of scooters they put on the ground. Lime expects to pay an annual permit fee of up to $45,000.
Gendron said that municipalities typically take one of three routes in regulating companies such as: Pass an ordinance, have companies apply for a business license or do nothing and see what happens.
“Richmond is not being any different than most other cities,” Gendron said. “They passed an ordinance, it’s now going into effect, and in this period they’re drafting the permit and application.
“All of us are learning in this together, and that’s not a diplomatic way of saying it or trying to B.S. people. Cities are trying to respond to a new technology, and we as companies have to be patient with cities as they’re trying to wrap their heads around what we’re trying to do.”
Gendron said that in some markets, Lime opens offices and warehouses, but is unsure what the plan for Richmond would be. The company will hire people to collect and charge the scooters in the city.
Gendron said one of common misconception regarding Lime’s devices is that they’re toys.
“They’re not. They’re true transportation vehicles,” she said. “The point is to support a network of transportation. It’s fun and exciting, but if you look at disconnections in transportation networks, that’s the point, is to fill those in.”
Lime may not be alone in looking to launch locally. Lancaster said that the DPW has heard from other operators, but did not specify which ones.
Bird previously put scooters on the ground in Richmond. Jump, a rentable electronic bike startup, also has shown interest in Richmond. Calls and emails to Bird and Jump spokespeople were unreturned by press time.