Decatur e-scooters vanish four months after passing ordinance

Decatur spent most of 2019 crafting an electric scooter ordinance, working closely with city staff, residents and the San Francisco-based company Lime scooters. The ordinance was approved by city commissioners on Sept. 23, 2019, but four months later not a single e scooter remains within city limits.

Lime, the only company with e scooters in Decatur, told the city on Jan 10 it was pulling out of metro Atlanta, and that all operations would cease by Jan. 23. In fact Lime pulled out of 12 markets including Phoenix, San Diego, and San Antonio, that the company deemed unprofitable. According to a Jan. 9 ACJ article Lime cited Atlanta’s “high impound fees and ban on operating the electric devices at night.”

The same article reported the city of Atlanta hadn’t collected on “at least $200,000 in scooter impound fees” (Atlanta works with several scooter companies).”

Decatur’s Local Government Management Fellow, Ash Kumar, who worked closely with Lime, said that Decatur never impounded any scooters. The city’s ordinance states “parking must be upright on hard surfaces without obstructing pedestrians or cars.”

Kumar said that Lime was notified about any discarded scooters and given three hours to pick them up, if between 7 a.m.-7 p.m., or 12 hours if between 7 p.m.-7 a.m.

“We had close contact with the company’s community affairs manager,” she said. “They always picked them up—they did a great job responding.”

E Scooters first hit Decatur in Sept. 2018, when Bird dropped an estimated 200 on the city practically overnight, with Lime following in Dec. 2018. Bird pulled out about a year ago when the city began working on its ordinance that, among other stipulations, limited each company to a maximum 75 scooters.

Kumar said the city hit a peak of about 75 scooters in use in July, but the numbers dropped to between 45 and 55 in October, November and December.

“We can’t control that Lime is exiting the Atlanta market,” said City Manager Andrea Arnold. “But now we do have an ordinance in place and we’re ready for the next micro mobility opportunity that comes along.”