Photo by Elvert Barnes, via Flickr

After an extended pilot period, a quartet of firms supplying dockless scooters and bikes for rent now have the official green light to operate in Baltimore.

The Department of Transportation today said Lime, one of the original two companies to drop off electric scooters here last year, as well as Ford-owned Spin, Olympian runner Usain Bolt’s eponymous firm Bolt and Uber-backed JUMP are the first companies to receive city-issued operating permits.

Recently appointed DOT Director Steve Sharkey said awarding the first four permits is “a major step towards more equitable transportation options that will help the citizens of Baltimore City.”

“Over the course of the next year, we will continue to evaluate this program in an effort to improve services being provided by the four companies,” he said.

A permit lasts one year and costs $70,000. Companies must also pay a $0.10 ride tax per vehicle and $10,000 each year in performance bonds, which will cover damage to public property or vehicle removal if necessary.

Companies have permission to bring up to 1,000 vehicles of each type—so 1,000 for scooter-only providers Bolt and Spin, and 2,000 total for Lime and JUMP, which will be offering both bikes and scooters.

In exchange for the city’s consent to leave two-wheelers out on sidewalks and at transit stops, each company must abide by requirements to serve designated lower-income neighborhoods (not just the “White L”), share usage data with the city, park vehicles only in certain areas and remove them from public view overnight, among other regulations set by the Department of Transportation and city legislation enacted in May.

Rule violations are subject to fines, like a $1,000 charge for not sharing data or $500 for not taking scooters and bikes off streets from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Noticeably absent from the awardees announced today was Bird. The Santa Monica-based firm was actually the first to leave scooters here—they just showed up overnight in June 2018—and the second, alongside Lime, to operate in Baltimore under the initial pilot program, which was later expanded to include JUMP and Spin.

“Baltimore residents, community groups, and local businesses have made clear that they enjoy our service and want Bird as an option in the city,” a spokesperson for the Santa Monica-based transit company said in an emailed statement. “We were surprised and disappointed to learn of BDOT’s decision and look forward to discussing it with them further so we can continue to provide Baltimore visitors and residents our micro-mobility alternative that is backed by unmatched operational experience and commitment to safety.”

Asked why Bird didn’t make the cut, DOT spokesman German Vigil said a seven-person committee evaluated submissions from seven firm and ultimately based its picks on the highest scores. Applications were evaluated based on vehicle information, maintenance, operations, education and engagement, hiring, data, sustainability and company history, he said.

Vigil said DOT could not share a full ranking of the scores.

Two other firms, Chicago-based VeoRide and Skip, a firm founded in San Francisco in December 2017, were also passed over. We’ve reached out to both for comment.

The other companies are celebrating. Spin’s market manager, Dylan Shapiro, said the firm is “thrilled to be granted a permit to operate in Baltimore.”

“We have a strong foundation locally, and we’ve seen that our scooters are providing an alternative option for residents commuting, in particular,” he said. “Our whole team is looking forward to expanding our fleet and continuing to offer safe, reliable rides around Baltimore.”

Nick Valentino, JUMP’s general manager for the Baltimore-Washington region, said in a statement that the company is “thrilled to further demonstrate our commitment to Baltimore and its residents by providing an environmentally friendly way to get from point A to point B.”

Stephen Deline, Baltimore operations manager for Lime, lauded Baltimore for creating the new permits, saying the city “is leading on micro-mobility, yielding tremendous benefits for its residents when it comes to providing sustainable, reliable and equitable transportation options.”

The committee that made the picks included reps from four city agencies and departments—DOT, the Mayor’s Office of Performance and Innovation, the Law Department and the Department of Planning—and followed a “strict rubric,” DOT’s announcement said.

The agency noted Bolt is a “new launch” in Baltimore and also recently entered Washington D.C. Lime will soon begin offering electric-assisted bicycles for rent, and JUMP plans to deploy bikes, too, the announcement said.

This story has been updated.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...