Lime Scooters are parked on the sidewalk across the street from The Fox Theater in Atlanta's Midtown community, Friday, January 4, 2019. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer / AJC
Photo: Alyssa Pointer / AJC

Lime scooters leaving Atlanta, cites ‘significant’ scooter impound fees 

Lime scooters announced Thursday it is leaving Atlanta, citing the city’s high impound fees and ban on operating the electric devices at night.

“As part of our path to profitability, Lime has made the difficult decision to exit Atlanta and focus our resources on markets that allow us to meet our ambitious goals for 2020,” a Lime spokesman said in a statement. “We appreciate the partnership we’ve enjoyed with Atlanta and remain hopeful we can reintroduce Lime back into the community when the time is right.”

Lime is the latest scooter company to leave Atlanta; Lyft and Gotcha left in 2019. Another transportation alternative, Uber’s JUMP e-bikes, pulled the plug in September.

In addition to Atlanta, Lime is leaving 12 other markets, including U.S. cities Phoenix, San Diego, and San Antonio, the company deems unprofitable.

The move comes months after the city imposed stricter scooter regulations. In August, following four scooter-related deaths, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms imposed a nighttime riding ban.

In January 2019,the city began aggressively impounding devices riders discarded on sidewalks and roadsides. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution report revealed the city failed to collect at least $200,000 in scooter impound fees. The city later announced they would collect the fees by the end of 2019.

“We are working with Lime to finalize the outstanding fees balance. Lime has committed to pay,” Atlanta’s Chief Bicycle Officer, Cary Bearn, said in an emailed statement, adding the company notified the city it was leaving.

Lime owes the city at least $69,944 in fees, including a $10,375 storage fee, according to invoices obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an Open Records Request.

Lime, which did not say when it would pull its devices from the streets, said the city allowed so many e-scooter operators it made the Atlanta market difficult.

Once Lime leaves, there will be five scooter companies operating in the city with a combined 6,200 scooters.

The San Francisco-based e-scooter company’s decision comes as the city revamps existing scooter legislation, including reducing the number of machines in the city.

Last year, the city took a series of steps to further regulate scooters, which first arrived in the city in 2018. Last January, the city imposed regulations to stop riders from leaving the devices on sidewalks and required businesses to have a permit to operate in the city.

The city now requires scooters to be parked upright on sidewalks in a way that allows pedestrians five feet of space.

In addition to the ban on riding from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., Bottoms also prohibited the city from issuing additional permits to scooter companies.

Councilman Andre Dickens, who chairs the city’s transportation committee, said enforcing the rules as well as pedestrian and rider safety, are top priorities this year.

Dickens said he would have liked for Lime to have stayed a little longer but understands their business decision.

“I want to make sure we still have scooters and other light transportation options,” he said. “I would’ve hoped that they would’ve sat down with us and made a balanced recommendation regarding the nighttime ban and impounding before deciding to leave.”

Dickens said impound and enforcement rules could change.

“We could do this differently and the city’s transportation department was looking at that to make recommendations to City Council sometime in the first quarter of the year,” Dickens said.


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In other news:

New York-based developer Olympia Heights has owned the property along Atlanta's 14th Street for more than five years, with plans to develop Midtown's tallest residential tower.

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