Lime is going to attempt a return to Auckland streets.
"We will be applying for a permit to operate in Auckland in the next licensing period [from June 1] and would be privileged to be able to serve the Auckland community once again," the e-scooter company's local public affairs manager, Lauren Mentjox, told the Herald today.
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Councillor Chris Darby, who will play a key role in Lime's possible return as head of the Auckland Council planning committee, said, "I welcome their name going into the mix again."
But Darby added, "They're going to have to put forward a strong case because we've now got four strong incumbents."
The newcomers have all added new safety features, Darby said. And he was impressed by their larger scooters, particularly the Neurons. "They got some very nice kit." He saw bigger and wider equalling safer. Now even Flamingo, the homegrown and smallest operator, has upgraded its fleet to the supersized Segway Ninebot Max.
"Lime kept talking about its [larger] Gen 3, but it never quite arrived," Darby said.
Mentjox said her company now had its larger new model on hand. "Testing took longer than we had expected," she said. "Gen3s will be introduced into Christchurch this month.
"If Lime does succeed in its bid to return to Auckland, it will be with the larger scooters."
She added, "Generation 3 scooters were tested for safety and rider experience in international markets such as Berlin, South Korea and San Francisco. In light of the Auckland permit decision the business reprioritised resources."
Despite liking their bigger kit, Darby is not completely sold on newcomers Neuron, Beam, and Jump by Uber.
"We've got an increasing amount of pavement litter of scooters," he told the Herald, including a wreck of four Beams strewn across the footpath he had just had to negotiate on Queen St.
He acknowledged some of the blame sat with the council, however, given there were just two "piddlingly small" official areas for e-scooters to be dropped off after overnight charging by contract juicers.
Between the council and the operators, there needed to be improvement "to make sure we don't get to the situation where we have a backlash from pedestrians who have had a gutsful of trying to avoid scooter clutter," Darby said.
Until that problem was sorted, it could be a case of "five's a crowd" if other operator joined the party in June. Lime had its own issues with messy early-morning e-scooter distribution at times.
It was also his anecdotal impression that there were relatively few e-scooters in middle and outer suburbs. Part of the rationale for increasing total e-scooter numbers from 1875 to 3200 was for more to be deployed to so-called tier-2 and tier-3 suburbs.
He plans to ask council staff to audit the four current operators to ensure they are distributing e-scooters as per the terms of their current licence - and not crowding the more lucrative CBD.
Yesterday, Auckland Council managers said the current, six-month licencing period had been set so short because it was anticipated the government's Accessible Streets package, expected to be in effect by June, would reset the regulatory landscape.
The overdue Accessible Streets legislative update will address enforcement areas beyond the council's control, such as e-scooters on footpaths, drunken riding and helmet-free riding (all currently permissible).
That was then
On November 29 last year, Auckland Council announced it had booted Lime e-scooters off the city's streets and replaced the San Francisco-based company with new providers.
Council director of regulatory services Craig Hobbs, after a trial period, announced four new operators - Beam, Flamingo, Neuron and Jump - from eight applications.
Lime and the smaller, Australian-based Wave were not successful in gaining new licences.
Hobbs said the four new operators had a stronger case, including safety aspects.
"The successful applications included higher-quality strategies around influencing user behaviour to improve safety outcomes and reduce potential nuisance," Hobbs said.
Lime was given 48 hours to disable all its e-scooters in Auckland, and a week to remove them from city streets - the second time it had got marching orders following a temporary ban at the start of 2019 after a front brake-locking bug that caused several accidents, and a demand from the council that Lime had to be more open and timely with its data-sharing.
Lime later made a raft of changes , including real-time ride-monitoring and regular checks.
Despite the abrupt nature of the November break-up, Mentjox - who has remained based in Auckland - says her company is in New Zealand for the long-term.
"Hamilton City Council last week endorsed Lime for another six months as the sole scooter operator," she says.
Hamilton deputy mayor Gary Taylor said the move gave Lime "the surety they deserved".
Citing a survey of 1800 residents, he said, "E-scooters are here to stay in Hamilton. They are not going anywhere now. Most people love them. The survey results ... are really, really positive. Lime can take a heck of a lot of credit for that. They have come in, taken responsibility, invested in our city, leased a warehouse, employed staff, and taken a chance."
Auckland Council six-month licence period to June 3, 2020
• Total e-scooter allocation: Raised from 1875 to 3200
• Beam: 880
• Neuron: 880
• Jump by Uber: 735
• Flamingo: 630
• Yet-to-be-allocated: 75
Beam and Neuron are based in Singapore. Jump is owned by the United States-based Uber. (Uber is also an anchor investor in Lime.) Flamingo was founded by youthful Wellington entrepreneurs Jacksen Love and Nick Hyland.