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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

City of Spokane, Lime, eye two-year contract extension

A row of Lime scooters awaits riders in downtown Spokane.  (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane officials plan to extend the city’s contract with Lime for two years but with tweaks to mollify those frustrated by downtown scooter use.

Under terms of a proposed two-year contract extension, the city could levy a $20 fine against the electric scooter and bicycle rental company each time one of its users parks their ride improperly, such as by ditching it in the middle of a downtown sidewalk.

The city would bill the company quarterly to collect the fines, but Lime would have the option of passing that charge along straight to the consumer.

“The user would get dinged if they parked the vehicle improperly, so that improves compliance,” Colin Quinn-Hurst, the city’s pedestrian and bicycle planner, explained during a Spokane City Council study session on Thursday.

Pending approval from the City Council, Spokane’s plan is to stick with a single scooter and bicycle rental company – Lime – for its shared mobility program. Lime is expanding its presence in the region, including a launch in Spokane Valley last year.

Lime arrived in Spokane on a pilot basis for 2018. Its first two-year agreement with the city – which included options for two more two-year extensions – began in 2019 and will expire this spring.

The company’s scooters and bicycles were immediately popular, drawing thousands of riders annually.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic throwing a wrench in every mode of public transportation, Lime believes it’s poised for a strong future in Spokane.

“The pandemic was definitely a stress test for this industry, but the industry is stronger than ever during a really difficult time, so I think that really bodes well for when people are starting to return to downtown,” Jonathan Hopkins, Lime’s director of strategic development, told The Spokesman-Review in February.

Other cities, including San Francisco, have reported an increase in for-hire mobility services following an initial freeze in rides at the beginning of the pandemic.

According to Lime, 80% of its users surveyed said they’re more likely to visit a local business when scooters are present downtown.

“One important correlation here that I think every Spokanite should know about, the presence of scooters actually helps businesses recover sooner,” Hopkins said.

But their use, particularly downtown, has at times drawn the ire of other pedestrians.

Changes to the shared mobility program have been discussed for months but were sidelined last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moving forward, city officials say they’re looking to more strictly enforce the rules, which include a ban on riding on downtown sidewalks. Outside of downtown, the speed limit on sidewalks is 10 mph.

Quinn-Hurst said he plans to ask the City Council to consider amending the law to clarify that violating the rules is a civil infraction that carries a $118 fine.

Lime Patrol, the company’s own team that roves around the city educating riders on proper usage, also would be allowed to levy $20 fees against riders. The company would not be deputized by the city to issue fines but would charge the fees under the terms of its own user agreement.

Three violations of the rules will result in a user’s account being revoked for the remainder of the season.

Councilwoman Lori Kinnear suggested the city establish a phone number that would allow people to report infractions.

“It’s clear that police are not going to enforce the rules, they have enough other things to do. We want to make sure that we’re not counting on them for enforcement, that we’re counting on Lime and for our parking enforcement folks to enforce the rules,” Kinnear said.

As for parking, city code enforcement officers would be able to photograph a unique license number affixed to every scooter to document the infraction. The company will be allowed to offer incentives to riders who park their scooter in one of the designated corrals downtown.

The City Council is expected to vote on the proposed contract in May.