Scooter companies pulling out of Miami just weeks after making their debut

After arriving in Wynwood in April, Lime is temporarily removing its scooters from the city of Miami.
After arriving in Wynwood in April, Lime is temporarily removing its scooters from the city of Miami.

And just like that, they were gone.

Mere weeks after blanketing the City of Miami with electronic scooters, two major scooter providers are temporarily pulling out after the city attorneys issued cease and desist letters stating they were in violation of Florida statutes.

“Until there is clear direction from the Commission on how to move forward, we must enforce existing laws,” said City of Miami spokesman Eugene Ramirez in an email. A discussion regarding electric scooters is on the agenda for the June 28th Commission meeting, he said.

At a city council meeting last week, Miami Commissioner Willy Gort said the scooter influx had taken city residents by surprise. The scooters, which are accessed through a phone app and are priced by the minute, first arrived in late April, when San Mateo, Calif.-based Lime deposited a fleet in Wynwood. At the end of May, Bird, based out of Los Angeles, arrived with its scooters.

"What happens when an accident takes place? We haven't done anything to fix it... Something's got to be done," Gort said at last week's meeting.

In a statement, a Lime spokesperson said that since April, more than 10,000 Miami residents and visitors had made nearly 30,000 scooter trips. But the company will abide by the city's decision to temporarily pull scooters off the road, said a Lime spokesman.

"With such strong ridership, we are committed to serving the community for the long-term and will temporarily pause operations in order to work with the City of Miami on fair, sensible regulations that cement Lime’s place in the Miami community for years to come.” Jed Fluxman, Lime general manager for Miami, said in a statement.

Bird did not directly confirm that it was pulling out. But direct messages viewed by the Herald sent to individuals through the Bird app who had taken advantage of its scooter charging compensation program indicated this was the case. The notes said that Bird was, like Lime, pulling out of the city temporarily. In addition, the Bird app currently shows no scooters available in Miami.

“We have been working with the city, and look forward to their adoption of an ordinance that will include an utilization cap," Bird spokesperson Rebecca Hahn said in an email. "This innovative approach will ensure there are enough Birds for all those who would want to ride one and reduce carbon emissions and congestion in Miami.”

On Twitter, some Miami residents Wednesday were already lamenting the scooters' absence.

"@birdride What happened to the scooters in Miami, especially Coconut Grove? #DudeWheresMyScooter," Tweeted Bryan Wisotsky.

"I hope @FrancisSuarez and @emiliotgonzalez figure this out; these scooters are great commuting tools, especially since we’ve been overbuilding Miami with little thought to traffic or parking," Tweeted Marcelo P. Lima, /referring to Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Miami city manager Emilio Gonzalez.

City Commissioner Ken Russell, whose district covers much of the dense area where the scooters were popular, said he welcomed the new devices but recognized the need for new laws covering them.

“I’m in favor of many approaches to solving our traffic issues, particularly those that help to fill the 'last-mile' gaps between neighborhoods and public transit," he said in an email. "Because there aren’t any laws on the books currently to legalize these types of scooters and the businesses operating them, we need to write an ordinance that will lay out a process for them to operate in a safe, legal manner."

He added that so far, he had mostly positive feedback from residents who have tried the scooters. However, others had questioned whether scooters being left on sidewalks were obstructing rights of way. In addition, the city's police department had also raised some concerns and has been advocating for regulating them.

"I like them, personally. But we want to get this right and not create new problems while trying to solve our perennial traffic issues,” Russell said.

Miami follows shortly on the heels of San Francisco in outlawing the scooters, at least for the time being, in order to craft stricter regulations.

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