Kyle Mannisi, Opinions Editor
You may have seen the hundreds of rentable bicycles scattered around the metropolitan region, with scooters recently making their first appearances on our own campus. Originally, Lime and Ofo, two national bike-sharing companies, were granted the right to operate in the city of St. Louis on April 16. Less than a month later, Ofo, a Chinese company, announced they were dropping St. Louis from their bike-sharing network. Now, two companies are currently fighting for dominance of the electric-scooter-sharing market in our city, Lime and Bird. The Bird scooters, which you may have seen, are all black with white lettering; Lime brand scooters are sporting the hard-to-miss neon green and yellow.
Lime is currently operating in over 50 U.S. cities, as well as in Switzerland, Germany, Spain and France. There seems to be a current trend toward app-based experiences in large metropolitan areas and single-user transportation is no exception. Lime and other merchants like it operate their fleet remotely; the bikes and scooters are on a network that is “dockless”. This means there is no physical location where the bikes and scooters are stored, and users can stop and start their rides wherever they choose. One drawback to this system is that helmets are not provided to riders, leading many to wonder about rider safety as hundreds of these 15+ mph personal vehicles whiz through city streets, parks and alleys. Beyond this, the bikes and scooters are equipped with smart locks, meaning they are virtually unusable until payment is received via the app. This immediately cancels out any use of the app by many poorer users, who may not have a smartphone or digital payment capabilities.
Official Lime employees, often in vans or pickups, will occasionally reshuffle the fleet in accordance with expected demand. As one can expect, battery-powered scooters in the wild cannot last forever and will eventually require charging. Everyday users can opt-in through the app to becoming a “juicer,” employees who charge the electric scooters. This idea sounds great in theory, until you see everything you will be responsible for in this overly involved “side-hustle.” According to Lime’s website, a juicer supposed to charge “scooters in the comfort of (their) own space and serve them to [their] community in the morning.” This means for all intents and purposes, a juicer uses their own vehicle to transport the scooters, as well as the electricity in their own home to charge the scooters for a whopping $5 each. That goes without mentioning the rampant cheating that exists among the Juicers, as well as a strange rivalry between official Lime employees and juicers over the precious scooters.
Dockless bike and scooter sharing companies are definitely not going anywhere, as recent fundraising and market success has recently valued Lime at $1.1 billion. No, not a typo, there is a billion-dollar company behind those little green scooters. Considering this, it seems clear to me that Lime is doing everything in their power to shift the burden of risk and expense away from themselves and onto riders and their employees.