Love 'em or hate 'em, Austinites are about to see fewer Lime bikes scooting around the city. The Austin Transportation Department has ordered Lime, operator of the dockless green e-bikes currently dotting Central Austin sidewalks, to remove 1,000 of the fleet's scooters from city streets.
ATD alleges the company violated the city's code of ordinances, as well as rules specific to "shared small vehicle mobility systems" like Lime and its competitors.
"This memorandum is to inform you we have ordered a 20 percent reduction (1,000 units) in Lime’s authorized dockless units due to violations," ATD director Robert Spillar wrote in a November 29 memo to Mayor Steve Adler and Austin City Council.
The memo goes on to allege that Lime violated these rules five times between November 14 and November 20 "by deploying more than 500 dockless mobility units in [downtown Austin] thereby saturating the [area] with dockless mobility units and creating a safety issue."
Spillar's memo claims Lime distributed "as many as 624 units more than their authorized allowance were documented."
Not so, claims Lime. In a statement to CultureMap, the San Francisco-based company said it worked "round the clock" to fix the issue once it was pointed out.
"Austinites have embraced Lime scooters, riding over a million times since June. Austin is one of a hand full [sic] of cities with caps and unique in its caps based on geographic areas," the statement reads. "Due to extremely high demand from users we had an unintentional overdeployment of scooters downtown."
The memo counters this, saying: "ATD notified Lime of its excessive deployment and warned Lime that continued violations of this nature could result in the suspension of authorized units or of the Citywide Dockless Transportation License. Lime failed to correct the violations after notification and continued to deploy more than the allowed 500 dockless mobility units within [downtown]."
Since their inception, electric scooters have been met with controversy. While some see the rentable scooters as an important cog in Austin's greater mass transit system, still others see them as a safety hazard and aesthetic blight turning the city into a poor man's version of The Jetsons.
Lime must now comply with the city's order for the next 30 days. If it remains in good standing throughout the month, the company may request the suspension be lifted.
E-scooter users shouldn't worry too much. Lime can still operate 4,000 bikes within Austin and, as Spillar notes in his memo, with six additional e-bike companies operating within the city limits, there is "sufficient supply to meet demand."