Lime bikes won’t be back in the Boston area this year — but their scooters might be.
The San Francisco-based company, which has operated a dockless shared bike program in more than a dozen Boston suburbs since 2018, notified the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in a letter Thursday afternoon that, despite high ridership, it had “made the tough call not to renew our regional contract for 2020.”
“We at Lime are grateful for MAPC’s leadership and for each participating community that helped prove dockless mobility has a vital role to play in addressing our congestion and climate crises,” said the letter, which was also sent to the 16 cities and towns that were part of the program.
The decision was first reported by Curbed Boston, which documented earlier this week how dockless bike companies had virtually disappeared from the Boston area since 2018 (though BlueBikes — the municipal docked bike system in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Everett, and Somerville — has continued to expand).
MAPC found that Lime users took over 300,000 trips, logging around 380,000 miles, over the course of the 18-month pilot. Company officials noted that, unlike other local bike-share systems, their program was operated without any public subsidies. Still, they sounded a mostly celebratory tone Thursday.
“We are thrilled that together we further normalized cycling as a viable transportation option in metro-Boston,” Lime’s letter said. “Our shared learnings should empower communities to further prioritize building the infrastructure that existing riders need and is crucial to entice new people out of their cars.”
Lime first brought dockless bikes to Malden in 2017, before expanding the following year as part of MAPC’s program. Last spring , it switched over fully from traditional pedal bikes to electric-powered bikes.
The company says that any users with leftover pre-loaded funds in their account can use their balance in other active Lime markets or request a refund through their customer service channels.
Or they could wait for what might come next.
The move to drop local bike operations comes as Lime has increasingly shifted its resources across the country toward dockless electric scooters; the company’s CEO said last August that 98 percent of Lime’s business comes from scooters. The same focus now holds true in Massachusetts, where a state law has impeded efforts to roll out scooters (though the decision has ultimately been up to local authorities). Brookline and Salem were the only two communities in Massachusetts to sanction a scooter-sharing program.
“Lime remains fully committed to innovative mobility options and we are currently working with state leaders on Beacon Hill to legalize electric scooters,” the letter Thursday said. “Over the past year, Lime has focused on launching and growing our scooter fleets in the US, which have been very popular in cities across the globe. Our recent scooter pilot in Brookline proved that the same excitement exists here.”
Lime, which was one of the three scooter companies in Brookline’s pilot, released a survey in October that showed 93 percent of the town’s residents wanted the program to become permanent. The survey also estimated that the scooter pilot had effectively eliminated nearly 50,000 car trips over its first six months.
Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley told Boston.com this past fall that local officials were working alongside MAPC on a regional scooter program, ideally aimed to debut this spring. Boston also passed it own micro-mobility ordinance last March.