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Bird, Lime stop scooter service to protest Uber, Lyft rankings

The move comes as Santa Monica ranks the ride-hailing companies over Bird and Lime for its scooter pilot program.

James Martin

The scooter wars are heating up in Santa Monica. 

Bird and Lime temporarily stopped their scooter services in the Southern California city on Tuesday, in protest of the city favoring ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft for an electric scooter and bike pilot program, according to Curbed Los Angeles

In a post, Lime says the city released its recommendation for the pilot program on Friday, which favors Lyft and Uber-owned Jump. The program would let up to four companies operate electric scooters and bikes in the city. 

"We feel our work in the Santa Monica community warrants a reconsideration of this recommendation," the post reads.

Lime tweeted about its scooter blackout Tuesday, saying "We've taken our fleet offline until 4:30pm locally in order to rally your support in opposition to the council's recommendation. Don't let a #LifeWithoutScooters be the future. Help City Hall make the right decision + take action right now."

A Lime user tweeted a screenshot Tuesday showing the company had dubbed it "a day without scooters."

Lime is "disappointed" by Santa Monica's current proposal, CEO Toby Sun said in a statement. 

"We have on-the-ground experience operating shared scooters in Santa Monica and around the world, giving us the greatest readiness to fulfill the needs of residents without interruption when the pilot program begins," Sun said. 

Dockless scooters appeared almost suddenly in the spring, when companies unleashed them on streets in places like San Francisco and Los Angeles without getting explicit permission from the cities. In San Francisco, 12 companies are vying for five permits that would let them operate in the city. In the meantime, they've had to pull their scooters off the streets. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which is issuing the permits, said in June that it'd likely take until the end of June to finalize the permits, but it still hasn't done so.

Uber and Lyft don't yet operate scooters.

"We're proud that our collaborative approach and Jump's long history of working hand-in-hand with cities was the right one for Santa Monica," an Uber representative said. "We look forward to the opportunity to serve the city with new alternatives to personal car ownership."

Bird started in Santa Monica, but its future there is uncertain, given the city planning department's recommendation for the council to give its pilot program permits to Uber and Lyft. 

"The Lyft and Uber applications to operate e-scooter sharing programs in Santa Monica demonstrate the desperate lengths CO2 polluting companies will go to for the purpose of undermining clean energy competition," Bird said in a statement. "We at Bird are dedicated to replacing car trips with clean energy trips and will continue to fight against car dependency alongside our loyal riders."

Lyft and Santa Monica city planning didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

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First published Aug. 14, 1:30 p.m. PT.
Update, 3:13 p.m. PT: Adds comment from Bird. Update, 3:42 p.m. PT: Adds comment from Uber.