Lime Scooter says it will close operations in 12 markets, including San Diego, where the scooters have at times incurred the wrath of residents and politicians.
A Lime spokesperson said it will begin to reduce operations in San Diego immediately, and will likely be out of the city by the end of January.
“As part of our path to profitability, Lime has made the difficult decision to exit San Diego and focus our resources on markets that allow us to meet our ambitious goals for 2020. We’re grateful to our team members, riders, Juicers and communities who supported us throughout this journey. We appreciate the partnership we’ve enjoyed with San Diego and remain hopeful we can reintroduce Lime back into the community when the time is right," said Lime spokesperson Alex Youn.
The move comes as a surprise since the company recently won a decision to keep it's operating permit. The city had sought to revoke Lime's permits after alleging it had violated geo-fencing rules that limit the speeds of the devices.
The company said San Diego was one of the first cities to welcome the innovation, but one of the last to develop a regulatory framework.
Lime suggested the company would have preferred a clear regulatory framework but instead voiced concerns about impound transparency, rogue impound companies, and a potential ban on beach boardwalks that would decrease ridership. The company also expressed frustration of being involved in last December's permit revocation hearing.
At its peak, the company had 4,500 devices operating in San Diego. In July, the city approved rules that include a $150 permit fee for each device.
Lime would not comment on operating costs or losses in San Diego.
The company has faced push back from residents, mostly in beach communities, whose residents say the scooters are a safety hazard.
Councilmember Barbara Bry has been vocal in her support of a ban on beach boardwalks and criticized the scooter industry for leading to injuries.
“It's clear that the scooter industry has an unsustainable business model. In addition, a study released by the University of California San Francisco documents a dramatic increase in traumatic head injuries at twice the rate of bike riders. The study recommends that scooter riders wear a helmet-- something the City of San Diego cannot require because of state legislation.”
Councilmember Chris Cate called Bry's efforts to limit scooters an overreach that disincentives innovation.
“Lime Scooters leaving San Diego is another example of what happens when government overreaches. Despite the sensible policies we recently adopted, Councilmember Bry’s proposed an extreme boardwalk ban that disincentives innovation and technology in our City. I strongly encourage everyone that supports this industry to attend the San Diego City Council meeting later this month, when we have the second reading of the proposed ban, to ask the Council majority to rethink their decision. I believe this will not be the last company to leave San Diego if actions like this continue,” Cate said.
Last September, Uber pulled their Jump scooters and bikes from San Diego due to the city's regulations.
"We agree with local elected officials in San Diego who’ve said current micromobility regulations foster an unsustainable operating environment, which is why we’re ending our operations as of today," Uber said in a statement at the time.
The San Diego City Council approved regulations for dockless scooters and bikes in April, including speed limits in certain areas, "no-ride zones" and fines for scooter companies who fail to cooperate.
Councilmember Scott Sherman attributed Lime's departure to recent changes to boardwalk regulations.
“Those who speak warmly of innovation while at the same time knee-capping innovative startups are being hypocritical,” said Sherman. “San Diego leaders need to decide once and for all if we want to be a cutting edge innovative city that embraces new technology or a city that merely tries to ban the future.”