Can Los Angeles’ Scooter Craze Survive the Pandemic?

A year ago Los Angeles embarked upon the nation’s largest experiment in micromobility. Hoping to ease traffic and reduce emissions, the city’s Department of Transportation granted permits to Bird, Lime, Spin, and five other companies to operate 37,000 scooters on L.A.’s streets. Until early March, the program seemed to be working and was on track to log 10 million rides in the project’s first year.

Then came COVID-19, stay-at-home orders, and Angelenos’ reluctance to touch anything anyone else had touched. As of mid-April just 700 scooters were operating within city limits, with rides hovering around 1,000 or fewer trips a day, according to LADOT. Lime and Wheels temporarily suspended operations, and Bird recently laid off 30 percent of its staff.