Lime is getting a second chance to enter the e-scooter market in some of the country's biggest cities after previously falling short of a New Zealand trifecta.

Wellington City councillors today voted in favour of continuing its public electric scooter share scheme in the capital after an initial six month trial with operators Flamingo and Jump.

The vote follows the announcement that Uber has sold its Jump e-scooter and e-bike business to Lime,with the deal expected to close early next month.

That gives Lime the opportunity to get a foot in the door in the capital after missing out on gaining a licence there last year.

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Lime has always been considered next in line to Wellington's e-scooter share scheme throne, but getting into Auckland may not be such an easy ride.

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Lime has previously confirmed it would apply for a permit to operate again in Auckland, after its scooters were pulled from the streets due to safety concerns.

The company also operates in Christchurch, Hamilton, Dunedin and the Selwyn District, making it the country's largest micromobility company, but without two major jewels in its crown.

A second chance for Lime?

Lime got the speed wobbles after it first deployed scooters on the streets of Christchurch and Auckland in October 2018.

The event marked the third continent to launch Lime's scooters in eight months, and the first in the Southern Hemisphere.

Wellington on the other hand held back on the e-scooter craze, biding its time to see how micromobility played out in other cities around the country before unleashing a share scheme onto its footpaths.

In the end, the capital decided to snub Lime and gave licences to providers Flamingo and Jump for a six month share-scheme trial.

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Wellington City councillors agreed at a meeting today to continue e-scooter share schemes in the capital. Photo / Screenshot.
Wellington City councillors agreed at a meeting today to continue e-scooter share schemes in the capital. Photo / Screenshot.

Lime was shocked and disappointed by the move, which it described as a "loss for the entire region".

But the city council always said it wasn't closing the door on Lime, and if one of the other operators pulled out, Lime would be the next cab off the rank.

Jumping to Lime

Both Auckland Council and Wellington City Council have active licences with Jump.

Transport blogger and researcher Oliver Bruce told Wellington City councillors during a committee meeting today that the quality of Lime's operations were just as good as Jump's.

"The Lime team are really good operators and they've learnt a lot being operated here in NZ. They are the largest company globally in terms of the operations that they do, and I know a number of the team from Jump are going over to Lime."

In a statement, Lime's NZ Public Affairs and Government Relations Manager Lauren Mentjox said they were thrilled to join forces with Jump.

"Globally, we have provided more than 130 million rides over the past three years, and built the most durable micromobility company in the world. We have learnt from our mistakes, deepened our local knowledge, and innovated based on real-world feedback from more than 15 million riders and 120 cities."

Wellington mayor Andy Foster says the capital has been more successful introducing e-scooters than other cities around the country. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Wellington mayor Andy Foster says the capital has been more successful introducing e-scooters than other cities around the country. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

Asked whether Lime would have to reapply to operate in Wellington after purchasing Jump, a city council spokesman said that was being worked through and "a lot would depend on when the details of the deal between Uber and Lime become final".

In Auckland, current operators' licences will expire at the beginning of next month anyway.

Any party wanting to operate an e-scooter rental business in Auckland beyond that date would need to apply for and be granted a licence under the relevant bylaw and meet code of practice criteria, Auckland Council Environmental Health manager Mervyn Chetty said.

Lime has previously confirmed it would be applying for a permit to operate once again in the City of Sails, after its scooters were pulled from the streets due to safety concerns.

At the time, the company penned what read like a heartfelt break-up letter to Auckland and promised its green scooters would be back on the city's streets someday.

Lime President Joe Kraus told Aucklanders the city "occupies a special place in Lime's heart".

"Because Aucklanders, you were bold. Bold to see - long before many other cities in the world - the meaningful contribution this form of transport can have as our cities change. We are so proud to have pioneered this new form of mobility with you in Auckland."

Wellington's back-seat ride

The original decision making allowing e-scooters in Wellington in the first place was extraordinary.

Councillors scrambled in February last year to make up rules on the fly, resulting in what one of them described as a dog's breakfast.

They decided to ban e-scooters from CBD footpaths, which later had to be patched up after council officers voiced health and safety concerns.

But some of those rules seemed to work, according to ACC data.

In the first six months of e-scooter share schemes hitting the streets in Auckland there were 921 new e-scooter injury claims, and 539 in Christchurch.

This compares with 186 claims in Wellington, although the capital did have the benefit of people being more familiar with the technology by the time it was rolled out on its streets.

"This suggests that conditions such as the Courtenay Precinct operating constraints where e-scooters are removed from the streets on evenings where increased hospitality patronage is expected, are improving the safety of all people travelling around Wellington", council officers said in their report into the trial.

Mayor Andy Foster acknowledged that record.

"It feels like we've done a better job than many other cities have done, maybe because we took our time over it and we were careful."

Rules tighten further

Councillors today agreed to continue the share schemes and tweaked the rules once again.

A successful amendment tabled by councillor Jenny Condie means there will now be a 15km/h speed limit along the city's waterfront and Oriental Parade shared pathways, using geo-fencing technology.

Councillors who were initially wary of introducing the scheme in the first place changed their tune.

Deputy mayor Sarah Free said in 2019: "I feel like a bomb is going to be dropped on the footpath."

Councillor Nicola Young also wasn't keen: "At the moment we've got anarchy on Wellington streets, we've got skateboarders, we've got Onzos, and now we've got e-scooters- and pedestrians are really scared."

Wellington City councillor Jenny Condie got an amendment across the line today to enforce a 15km/h speed limit for e-scooters along the city's waterfront and Oriental Parade. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Wellington City councillor Jenny Condie got an amendment across the line today to enforce a 15km/h speed limit for e-scooters along the city's waterfront and Oriental Parade. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

Last August councillor Simon Woolf went as far as emailing his colleagues in the middle of a meeting asking them to urgently abandon the trial until better education and a regulatory enforcement regime could be enacted.

But they all voted in favour of the e-scooters today, some acknowledging their initial fears were unfounded, and conceding the scooters were here to stay.

One of the biggest problems hasn't been so much when people are physically riding the scooters but the hazard the technology presents when parked or blown over in the wind.

Councillor Tamatha Paul was successful with an amendment today to speed up the process of talking with New Zealand-owned and operated companies already providing smart city infrastructure to get more secure scooter parking in the city.

Councillor Laurie Foon was also successful with an amendment regarding the consideration of future e-scooter provider contracts.

As a result, a heavier weighting will be given to companies that can demonstrate good end of life plans for scooters, including the dismantling, reuse and recycling of parts.