City Proposal Would Leave Dockless Bike and Scooter Operations in Hands of Ride Hail Giants


City staff from the Santa Monica Planning and Community Development Department released today its recommendations for granting four exclusive shared mobility permits. The somewhat surprising results, if adopted by the Director of Planning and Community Development,* will see a dramatic shakeup in the mobility options offered in the city as neither Bird nor Lime scooter companies were selected to take part in the city’s pilot program.

Rather, a company best known for its car-share program, Lyft, was the highest rated program in both the scooter and bicycle program. Coming second in both categories was Uber-owned JUMP. Uber is also a ride hailing company you might have heard of.


Final selections will be announced August 30. These companies were selected among 18 applicants under a new 16-month shared mobility pilot program established by the Santa Monica City Council on June 12.

The public can submit comments on the proposed operators by August 17 here.

Selected companies will be granted the exclusive right to operate dockless shared electric scooters and bicycles for the duration of the 16-month pilot. These companies will have to comply with stipulated terms in the pilot program, including:

  • $20,000 per operator fee, and a $130 per device fee
  • Vehicle safety and durability features
  • Deployment standards that ensure equitable coverage
  • Parking restrictions in certain pedestrian-heavy locations
  • Minimum customer service standards for reporting broken and abandoned devices
  • User engagement and education standards to increase compliance with state laws regarding age, licensing, helmet use and rider behavior
  • Sharing open operating data with the city

Since dockless electric scooters first arrived in Santa Monica in fall 2017, ridership has been robust with over 600,000 trips and 1,000,000 miles taking place on scooters operated by Bird.

In lieu of capping the number of vehicles shared mobility companies could deploy, the City Council opted at its June meeting to allow operators to scale up their fleets if they can show that high levels of use merit doing so. The four selected companies will be permitted to deploy initial fleets of up to 500 e-bikes and 1,000 e-scooters respectively. Upon approval of the city, each company would be able to expand its fleet if it can show its e-bike fleet averages three rides per bike per day, and/or scooter fleet averages four rides per scooter per day.

Critics have raised concerns about how companies have deployed the services as well as user behavior, especially sidewalk riding, underage riding, lack of helmets and poor parking etiquette. The overwhelming cause of traffic-related collisions, injuries and deaths in Santa Monica remain automobiles and their drivers, and privately-owned cars still travel over 200 times more miles per day than scooters.*

Santa Monica Next contributor Gary Kavanaugh sees small transportation as a key force in fighting climate change, and Sirinya Matute finds them helpful at making sure she can get to her child’s daycare on time.

*The City of Santa Monica reports 10.3 vehicles miles traveled per day per capita, multiplied by 90,000 residents is 927,000 vehicles miles traveled per day in Santa Monica. Bird claimed approximately 1,000,000 miles served after nine months of operation. 1,000,000 divided by 270 days is 3,700 miles. It’s not clear if Bird’s mileage was Santa Monica specific.

* An earlier version of this story said the final decision on permits rested with the City Council. The Director of Planning and Community Development gets final decision on permits, no Council action is necessary.

Damien Newton
Damien Newton
Damien is the executive director of the Southern California Streets Initiative which publishes Santa Monica Next, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, Streetsblog California and Longbeachize.

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