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Lime hopes its riders roll with charity in mind

A pilot program will allow scooter and bike customers to donate to local nonprofits.

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A man rides a Lime scooter in downtown San Francisco.

James Martin/CNET

Lime wants to give a lift to the communities it serves, beyond the scooter rides it provides customers.

The San Mateo, California-based startup said Thursday it's launching a pilot program that will allow its bike and scooter riders to add money to the total cost of their trip that will be donated to a local nonprofit. The opt-in program, dubbed Lime Hero, will launch next week in Seattle, Washington DC, and Austin, Texas, with the plan to eventually be extended to all Lime markets, each with a unique local nonprofit.

"We see our success tied to the success of the cities we live and work in," Ryan Gallentine, Lime's director of mobilization, said in a statement. The donations are "another way for us and our riders to connect with the community. The organizations we've partnered with are doing local, meaningful work that we want to celebrate."

The program could also help repair strained relations between communities and scooter companies created earlier this year as the scooter phenomenon took over more cities across the US.

Scooter companies say they're solving a "last-mile" transportation problem, giving commuters an easy and convenient way to zip around the city while helping ease street congestion and smog. But with that popularity, a backlash emerged, with residents complaining that riders ignore the laws of the road, endanger pedestrians by riding on sidewalks and leave the scooters wherever they feel like it -- blocking parking spots, bike racks and wheelchair accesses.

Lime plans to test two donation options to determine which is more popular with riders. One option will add a flat rate of 15 cents per mile, while the other will round up the fare to the nearest dollar and donate the difference.

Lime riders chosen to participate in the pilot will be notified by email and given the opportunity to opt in or out.

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