Uber and Lyft are expanding their vision of ride-sharing to include not just cars but bicycles, electric bicycles, and electric scooters.
Uber jumped in first, adding the electric bikeshare company Jump to its app earlier this year in San Francisco and then acquiring the company outright in March for an estimated $100 million.
Lyft earlier this month bought Motivate, the nation’s largest bikeshare company, with operations in such cities as Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. The value of the deal was estimated at $250 million.
And California-based Lime announced recently that its bikes and scooters would also begin appearing on the Uber app and that several investors, including Uber, Fidelity, and Alphabet, the parent of Google, had invested $335 million in the company. The investment suggested the company is now valued at more than $1 billion.
“Our investment and partnership in Lime is another step towards our vision of becoming a one-stop shop for all your transportation needs,” said Rachel Holt, an Uber vice president.
Lime is a dockless bike-sharing company that operates in 16 states and the District of Columbia. In Massachusetts, the company is in 15 communities, including Arlington, Belmont, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Milton, Needham, Newton, Waltham, and Watertown.
Scott Mullen, Lime’s director of expansion in the northeast, joined Josh Fairchild and Jim Aloisi of TransitMatters on the Codcast to talk about the business. He said 40 percent of trips connect riders to transit, while 28 percent start or end at local retail stores.
“We’re all about first and last mile,” Mullen said, referring to the use of bicycles and scooters to connect with transit. “We need to capture any trip that’s three miles or less that could be taken by car.”
Sometimes, however, bikes are good for the entire trip when public transit is not available. He said Lime has noticed that many bikes in Malden are ridden into Chelsea at around midnight and then return to Malden the next morning, suggesting they are being used by people commuting to work.
Electric scooters are Lime’s most popular offering in terms of frequency of use. Mullen said the average electric scooter is rented a dozen times a day, while electric bikes are typically rented five times a day and regular bikes two times. The electric scooters have a throttle, a brake, and a battery indicator. Their top speed is 14.8 miles an hour and their range is 37 miles. They cost $1 to unlock and 15 cents for each minute of usage, or about $2.50 for 10 minutes.
Lime is working on a system to swap out scooter batteries at night, but currently the company has to round up the scooters every night to take them in for charging. It often hires juicers, individuals who round up scooters, charge them overnight at their homes, and return them to a designated location in the morning.
Bird, another California-based electric scooter company, launched in Somerville and Cambridge on Friday with an almost identical business approach. The company, however, didn’t tell officials in the two municipalities it was launching and caught them off-guard.
Mullen said he thinks the bike and scooter-sharing business is shifting toward dockless systems because the cost to launch them is much less. He said it costs $50,000 to install a bike docking station like the ones used by Motivate’s Blue Bikes in Boston. He noted Seattle dropped its vendor, Pronto, in March 2017 and signed on with three dockless bike-sharing companies, one of which was Lime. Seattle now has 8,000 bikes deployed around the city, he said.
Lime doesn’t require any municipal investment, Mullen said, although he views the relationship between the company and the host town as a partnership. He said municipalities working with bike-sharing companies have to invest in infrastructure improvements to make the system work.
Mullen said he views scooters as the Trojan horse of his business. He says scooters have no political baggage and they are a fun way to introduce people to the sharing concept.
“Who’s against scooters?” he asked.