Paris snubs Bird in highly competitive electric scooter competition

Technology

Paris has chosen its electric scooter operators. The city, which has quickly become a haven for biking, walking, and scootering thanks to the forward-thinking leadership of Mayor Anne Hidalgo, has selected Lime, Tier, and Dott as its scooter companies. Each company will be awarded a two-year contract which allows it to deploy 5,000 electric scooters throughout the city, for a total of 15,000 scooters.

The results represent a huge win for Lime, the San Francisco-based company that counts Uber and Google among its major investors. It’s also a stinging loss for Lime’s main rival, Bird, the scooter sharing pioneer that had plans to make Paris its “second home” by hiring thousands of people to work at its new European hub to be located in the city. A spokesperson for Bird didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Electric scooters, which are available for rent through a smartphone app, first appeared on the streets of Paris in 2018. But the trickle of scooters soon turned into a deluge, resulting in approximately 20,000 scooters inundating the streets. Hidalgo described the scooters as “anarchic,” while transport minister Élisabeth Borne told Le Parisien the city was experiencing “the law of the jungle.”

Last year, the city announced a plan to bring the chaos under control by selecting three official operators. “We need order and rules to assure road safety and to calm the streets, sidewalks and neighborhoods of our city,” Hidalgo said in 2019.

In total, 16 scooter sharing companies responded to the city’s request for proposals. Lime, the only US-based company to win a contract, said it was “thrilled to be among the winners.” Tier, which is headquartered in Berlin, crowed by winning “the world’s biggest e-scooter tender.” And Dott, based in Amsterdam, posted a photo of its team celebrating on Twitter.

Hidalgo, who recently won reelection almost exclusively on a platform of removing cars from cities to promote biking and walking, said that scooter operators were selected based on three criteria: environmental responsibility, safety for users, and managing the maintenance and recharging of scooters.

She also called on scooter riders to respect the rules of the road, while noting that 2,500 dedicated parking spaces for scooters are being installed throughout Paris.

The selection of Paris’ scooter operators could have a profound effect on the micromobility industry, both in Europe and the US, especially as the coronavirus pandemic is driving more mergers and consolidation. Paul Asel, managing partner at NGP Capital and an investor in Lime, told Business Insider in June that Paris’ decision would likely set the stage for only two or three companies operating in Europe going forward.

Initially, COVID-19 brought the scooter sharing industry to a halt. Ridership plummeted as scooter companies yanked their vehicles from city streets. Bird and Lime, the two biggest companies in terms of fleet size and valuation, went through mass layoffs in recent months, eliminating around 580 full-time positions. Uber offloaded its shared bike and scooter business Jump on Lime as part of an investment that would see Lime’s valuation drop by nearly 80 percent.

But the industry is slowly recovering, thanks to a resurgence in interest in biking and other alternate forms of transportation. As they look for safe ways to get around, city dwellers are using scooters for longer trips too. Last week, Lime reported that on average scooter trips have been 34 percent longer in duration and 18 percent farther in distance since the pandemic started.