Reno, Sparks, UNR to Lime: Pump the brakes on e-scooters | nnbusinessview.com

Reno, Sparks, UNR to Lime: Pump the brakes on e-scooters

RENO, Nev. — Lime, the company that brought dockless bike sharing to Northern Nevada this May, has been told by local governments to pump the brakes after an apparent controversial decision Tuesday to launch a fleet of electric scooters.

Following Lime's launch of 100 e-scooters in the city of Reno at 7 a.m. Tuesday, the cities of Reno and Sparks, as well as the University of Nevada, Reno, swiftly banned the scooters for what officials are calling a "premature" and "irresponsible" move by Lime.

The company had reportedly notified its partners, including the city of Reno, only hours earlier at 10 p.m. Monday it was rolling out its fleet of e-scooters.

The city of Reno sent the strongest message Tuesday evening, issuing a cease and desist letter to Lime, demanding the company's stand-up e-scooters — which can go up to 15 mph — be taken off the streets immediately. The letter gave Lime until Thursday to remove the scooters.

On Wednesday, Jon Humbert, spokesperson for the city of Reno, said Lime had complied with the cease and desist letter.

"For those scooters to go out on Tuesday was a bit of a surprise," Humbert said. "But the nice part is we were able to connect with Lime and get on the same page. To make sure that those scooters were in a safe location — not on the streets — because we still have to iron out some of these issues."

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The biggest issue is that Reno, Sparks and UNR want legal clarification on whether Lime Scooters are classified as mopeds, which would require DMV registration.

"If we treat them like mopeds as it appears that they may be treated, they've got to be driven just like regular cars," Humbert said.

According to published reports, Lime responded Tuesday with the following statement, in part: “… We believe the code authorizes scooter operations under our franchise agreement. We are committed to work with the city to find a solution. We hear the city's request to (cease and desist) and will not deploy…”

DMV: Lime Scooters are not mopeds

In Reno, before the plug was pulled on the e-scooters Tuesday, one didn't have to look far to find a Lime rider cruising a city sidewalk.

Humbert said the franchise agreement between Lime and its partners allows for "different technologies" (from Lime) to be on the road.

However, he added: "because we have a unique challenge of what state law says we can do and what city ordinances says we can do, I think we needed to have a bit more of that dialogue before the scooters went out."

Sparks City Manger Steve Driscoll said Lime was directed on Sept. 13 not to launch its e-scooters in Sparks until safety and legal questions were answered.

"Specifically," Driscoll said in a statement Wednesday to the NNBV, "the city of Sparks has informed Lime to work with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to determine whether e-scooters need to be registered and/or licensed with the State of Nevada."

According to the Nevada DMV, however, Lime Scooters are classified as electric bicycles, not mopeds.

"At this time, they do not need to be registered, nor do we anticipate that happening without a change in the Nevada Revised Statutes via legislation," Alex Smith, DMV public information officer, told the NNBV.

Nevertheless, the cities of Reno and Sparks and UNR want to further discuss the issue in an effort to get on the same page with Lime and keep the public safe, Humbert said.

"We're optimistic about this," Humbert said Wednesday. "We know that when you've got new disruptive technology there can become challenges along the way. There are going to be bumps on that road. And we've got to make sure that everything out on that road is safe." 

No Lime at UNR — for now

Upon UNR prohibiting e-scooters on campus, Lime placed a no parking zone around the university for both Lime Bikes and Lime Scooters. In other words, if one were to open the Lime app, a red geofence, meant to halt scooter and bike riders from parking its vehicle, surrounds the entire UNR campus.

"It was a surprise to us that Lime would choose to remove all Lime products, including bikes, when the electric stand-up scooters were the issue," Kerri Garcia, UNR's director of communications, said in a statement to NNBV on Wednesday morning. "We are dismayed that Lime chose to take this drastic action, without any communication to the university."

According to a Lime spokesperson, the Lime app cannot separate scooters from bikes. Meaning, if scooters are blocked, bikes will be, too.

Positive impact on environment, businesses

Matt Deacon, local operator of Dutch Bros. in Reno, said he hopes the local jurisdictions are able to iron out the issues so Lime Scooters can return to the roads.

On Tuesday morning, prior to the e-scooter shutdown, Deacon let Lime park half a dozen scooters at his coffee shop on South Virginia Street.

"I think they're great," Deacon told the NNBV. "I think it's a great opportunity for making a cities like Reno and Sparks more accessible to people. Instead of having to get an Uber or Lyft or walk a mile, they can hop on a bike or grab one of those scooters and not only hit our business, but a lot of other local businesses in town.

"I know that Reno and Sparks are going through a lot of changes right now. Seeing new companies come in and create ways to get around and make the city more mobile is a pretty cool opportunity."

Other regional concerns

According to previous reports, Lime brought 250 of its electric scooters to nearby South Lake Tahoe in June.

The fleet joined 250 LimeBikes already deployed in the community for the second year.

Their arrival was met with mixed reviews, as some patrons have ridden the scooters illegally, while others have been documented to be involved in accidents and/or DUI-related arrests.

Another concern is one can ride a scooter without a helmet — which puts a rider at potential risk should he or she wreck. Yet another concern is people riding the scooters on sidewalks and causing potential issues with pedestrian traffic.