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Stung by pandemic, Lime could get break from Spokane

UPDATED: Tue., July 14, 2020

On her lunch break, Sarah Norton rides a Lime scooter Tuesday across Main Avenue.  (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
On her lunch break, Sarah Norton rides a Lime scooter Tuesday across Main Avenue. (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Lime may get a free ride in Spokane.

The city could waive Lime’s fees for 2020 in consideration of its limited operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under its agreement with the city, the San Francisco-based company pays a flat fee for every bike and scooter it has on Spokane streets.

Originally set to return to city streets in March, Lime scooters and bikes resurfaced only recently, following a long delay caused by the coronavirus and related public health concerns.

Though they’re again available to ride, Lime’s operations remain constricted and burdened by the pandemic.

The average scooter is shuttling about two riders per day, according to Colin Quinn-Hurst, a pedestrian and bicycle planner with the city of Spokane who oversees the Lime program. While that limits the company’s profitability, Quinn-Hurst said that’s right where the city wants them to be.

“We don’t want a lot of rides per vehicle, because then they can keep up the rate of cleaning with the rate of ridership,” Quinn-Hurst said.

In recognition of the reduction in traffic volume, the city has asked the Spokane City Council to sign an amended contract with the company that would eliminate its fees for the year.

The proposed contract would also formalize the requirement that the company clean its vehicles in line with Centers for Disease Control recommendations during the pandemic. The vehicles are sanitized by Lime staff on a nightly basis.

The contract was discussed during a meeting of the Spokane City Council’s Urban Experience Committee on Monday.

The company pays the city 75 cents every day for every scooter and bike it has on the road. Last year, that amounted to about $90,000.

Given that Lime is already off to a late start this year, Quinn-Hurst estimated that the fee waiver would result in a roughly $40,000 loss of revenue to the city.

Councilwoman Candace Mumm expressed concern about a 100% waiver.

“I always get a little nervous when we just give something away for free,” Mumm said. “A reduction is a little more comfortable for me.”

No final decisions were made on the contract on Monday. The city’s two-year agreement with Lime expires at the end of 2020 .

The City Council also is considering changes to city law that would increase enforcement against those who ride scooters improperly, including a potential $118 fine for those who illegally ride on the sidewalk downtown. The proposed changes were first discussed in March but halted by the pandemic.

Lime did not return a request for comment .

The company had laid off more than 100 employees prior to the pandemic, and an additional 80 people were cut shortly after it took hold, according to Fortune.

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