New York City’s days as one of the last remaining holdouts in the dockless electric scooter boom is finally at an end. The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the selection of Bird, Lime, and VeoRide as the participants in its inaugural e-scooter pilot.
The companies are expected to begin operations in the Bronx by early summer with 1,000 scooters each. The pilot is only expected to last for one year, but DOT has the option to renew the licenses at the end of the term. The department also said it expects most scooter rides to cost less than $5 for customers on average.
It’s been over a year since New York State finally lifted its ban on throttle-based electric bikes and scooters, removing the last obstacle that kept the scooter companies at bay from the largest and possibly most lucrative market in the country. Since 2017, companies like Bird, Lime, Spin, Scoot, and others have deployed hundreds of thousands of Chinese-made e-scooters in cities across the world — and yet New York City stubbornly remained scooter-free because of the state law barring their use.
At the time, legalizing e-scooters and e-bikes was seen as a huge boon for immigrant delivery workers who had been targeted in a crackdown by police for their use of e-bikes. Under the new rules, scooters would stay illegal in Manhattan, though the city could eventually overrule that provision. But the legalization also opened the debate over how New York City should regulate shared scooters on its streets.
Ultimately, the city landed on a one-year pilot with three companies in just one borough, the Bronx. After the first year, assuming everything goes well, the city will expand the service area to new neighborhoods and will allow the participating companies to increase their number of scooters in operation to 2,000 each.
The permit winners include two big names — Bird and Lime — and one smaller one, Chicago-based VeoRide, which offers both standing and sit-down versions of its scooters. All three will be barred from using “gig” labor to charge and rebalance their scooters under the rules of the pilot. The companies will also be prohibited from forcing customers to agree to terms of service that include binding arbitration or class action waiver provisions.
Despite these restrictions, the companies sound super pumped about their selection. All three companies used some variation of the word “honored” in their prepared statements. Next up is London, which is expected to soon announce the choices for its shared-scooter pilot.