Ride share company Lyft is entering the scooter arms race, marked by launching its scooter rental program in Denver on Thursday.
The company, which tries to differentiate itself from its competitors by stressing sustainability and social justice issues, is launching its two-wheeled vehicles later than its competitors. Early entrants into the scooter market moved stealthily into markets like San Francisco and Santa Monica, often before municipalities could craft regulation. As a result, cities like San Francisco responded with a ban, while making companies apply for permits for a pilot program.
This was not lost on Lyft.
"We’ve obviously taken time to look at what works well what doesn’t work so well," Caroline Samponaro, Lyft's Head of Bike, Scooter & Pedestrian Policy told ABC News. "We were looking for ways that Lyft could add value. We’re not just thinking about bikes and scooters, we're thinking about how to make multi-modal trips more possible for most people."
Multi-modal trips involve more than one kind of transportation.
"People think, 'If I ride a bike to work I have to ride a bike home,'" Samponaro said. "We can help piece together commutes in new ways. Forty percent of car trips in the U.S. are less than two miles. If we want to decrease congestion, bikes and scooters become amazing tools."
Denver was an ideal launch city because of its buses and light rail system already available as public transit, Samponaro said. Riders of either of those systems can get a discount on scooter and bike shares.
Lyft co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green detailed their ambitions in a Medium post on July 16, stressing transportation equity and sustainability.
"Lyft Bikes and Scooters will be our most affordable transportation options, and will extend mobility to communities that have historically been underserved," the founders wrote in their post.
In addition to distributing scooters to such neighborhoods, Lyft personnel will collect and redistribute the scooters to communities more in need of transport options, Samponaro said. Although Denver does not have a helmet law, the company will give some away for free at the Lyft Hub at 1401 Zuni Street starting on Sept. 7 on Wednesdays and Fridays.
To rent a scooter through the Lyft app, you have to be 18. You scan your drivers license, and are charged a $1 unlock fee and then 15 cents per minute for a rental period for up to 30 minutes.