After bursting onto the streets under nebulous regulation, several pay-to-ride electric scooter companies were awarded official permits to operate in San Francisco and Santa Monica on Thursday.
Santa Monica’s Shared Mobility Device Selection Committee picked four winners: Bird — perhaps the company most synonymous with the e-scooter craze — along with Lime, Lyft, and Uber-owned JUMP Bikes. All four of the companies will be allowed to operate a total of 750 e-bikes and e-scooters during a 16-month trial period beginning on Sept. 17.
The beach city, which has struggled to reign in the glut of e-scooters on its streets, said the trial period allows the companies and city government to “collaboratively and flexibly develop an effective model to regulate these new shared transportation options” in its official statement.
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“We are grateful to be selected to participate in Santa Monica’s e-scooter pilot program!” tweeted Bird chief Travis VanderZanden. “Thanks to SM City Hall and the community for giving us the opp to partner toward reducing cars on the road, cutting carbon emissions, and serving the city with sustainable transit solutions.”
At the same time, San Francisco granted its pilot contracts to Scoot and Skip on Thursday — conspicuously leaving out bigger names like Bird and Lime, which recently moved its HQ to the city. San Francisco had banned e-scooters from its streets back in June until permits were awarded. Both Skip and Scoot will be allowed up to 625 active e-scooters during the first six months of their year-long permits.
Like Santa Monica, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said in its announcement it “will evaluate how a shared scooter system works” by assessing “the pilot’s effectiveness and company compliance through field observation, counts, citations issued, data received, complaints received and other measures.”
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“Today’s decision is disappointing,” Lime CEO Toby Sun said in a statement to TheWrap. “San Franciscans deserve an equitable and transparent process when it comes to transportation and mobility. Instead, the SFMTA has selected inexperienced scooter operators that plan to learn on the job, at the expense of the public good.”
“We will continue to work with San Francisco officials, partners, community organizations, and advocates in hopes of bringing Bird back to the City by the Bay,” said a Bird spokesperson in a statement to TheWrap.
Heading into Thursday, the battle for e-scooter supremacy had already become the tech story of the year. Bird raised $300 million, at a $2 billion valuation, earlier this summer, and recently opened a new office in Santa Monica. Not to be outdone, Lime raised $335 million from a who’s who of investors, including Alphabet and Uber, in July, at a $1.1 valuation, according to Bloomberg.
While the sudden emergence of e-scooters in more than 50 U.S. cities this year has led to million of rides, not everyone has welcomed their ubiquity. Many Los Angeles locals have taken joy in destroying the scooters by setting them on fire or giving them a viking funeral, according to the LA Times.