Micro-mobility will remain in one of America’s most sprawling cities.
The city of Jacksonville on Tuesday announced a partnership with a pair of scooter companies that will expand its 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 apiece throughout Downtown and the surrounding zones. The companies have a two-year agreement with the city with an option for 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.
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E-scooters have generated controversy in other cities. Proponents have extolled them as green transportation solutions, but others have called them a nuisance to pedestrians. Some cities have confined the scooters to streets and bicycle lanes and capped their speed.
The Jacksonville City Council passed legislation last June that regulated the hours the scooters could operate (from 5 a.m. until midnight), mandated a 10 mph speed limit on sidewalks, and encouraged the companies to coordinate with the Jacksonville Transportation Authority to place corrals that hold the scooters near transit stops.
Lori Boyer, CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority, said people should feel safe operating scooters Downtown.
“Downtown is a very safe place contrary to what you might hear,” she said. “It also has not really been a pedestrian safety hazard (or) injury hazard based on actual data.”
Bruno Lopes, a senior manager of government partnerships for Bird, said Tuesday that the company’s agreement with Jacksonville will “do wonders for alleviating congestion, lowering C0² emissions and providing equitable access to transportation to all your residents and visitors.”
Bird, Blue Duck, Helbiz, LINK and SPIN participated in the micro-mobility pilot program the city launched in March 2021.
The Jacksonville Business Journal reported in October 2022 that Blue Duck left the local market in December 2021 and shuttered operations in January 2022. The other pilot companies were among the six that applied to be full-time mobility providers.
Lime is a privately owned 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 revenues of $72.8 million and a net loss of $9.7 million in its latest Securities and Exchange Commission filing in November. In October, Bird announced it was pulling out of “small to mid-sized cities across the U.S.”
Lime spokeswoman Trisha Botty said the company may consider expanding here if its initial foray is successful.
“We want to be there to support Jacksonville in building (a) micro-mobility network of options, because not everybody 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 its ridership and share it with the city.