Scooter companies make cuts amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

Electric scooters that once cluttered Austin street corners are now harder to find. Ride-sharing and micromobility companies such as Lyft, Lime and Bird have all laid off employees and altered scooter operations amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to company representatives. 

Lyft announced plans to terminate nearly 1,000 employees, which represents 17% of the company’s workforce, in a report to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on April 29. 

The company also ended scooter operations in Austin on April 30, according to KXAN. According to the company’s website, Lyft scooters are now only available in seven locations, including Washington, D.C., Miami and Denver. 

“(Lyft) committed to a plan of termination as part of the Company’s efforts to reduce operating expenses and adjust cash flows in light of the ongoing economic challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the Company’s business,” according to the report. 

In the same report, Lyft announced that it furloughed approximately 288 employees and implemented salary reductions for executive leadership, vice presidents and other exempt employees starting in May. 

In mid-March, Lime began pausing operations across the globe, according to a blog post on their website. 

In mid-April, Lime introduced the Lime Aid program in cities across the world such as Austin, Berlin, Germany, and Tel Aviv, Israel, according to an April 15 blog post from the company. For the program, small fleets of scooters were made available to those in need, according to the post. 

“The pandemic has made transportation more difficult, and our scooters offer an easy way for people to travel while social distancing,” according to the blog post. “In addition, Lime will offer free 30-minute rides for public health personnel and law enforcement officers, who can receive access simply by signing up.”

Before the pandemic, there were over 3,000 Lime scooters in Austin, said a Lime spokesperson. With the new Lime Aid program, there are now only about 100 scooters in the city, said a Lime spokesperson. 

Lime also announced that it had laid off about 80 employees, which represents approximately 13% percent of the company, according to a statement from CEO Brad Bao on April 30. 

“Almost overnight, our company went from being on the eve of accomplishing an unprecedented milestone — the first next-generation micromobility company to reach profitability — to one where we had to pause operations in 99% of our markets worldwide,” Bao said in the statement. 

 

Scooter company Bird has also laid off 30% of its global team. Those who were laid off received severance compensation, such as four weeks’ pay and three months of health coverage, said a Bird spokesperson in an email.

“The reductions were seen in every department, spanned all levels including executives and were proportionate to the company’s overall demographics,” the spokesperson said.

Bird announced that it would ramp up health and safety measures such as increasing the daily frequency of sanitizing scooters, sterilizing helmets and providing more gloves for field service members, according to a blog post from founder and CEO Travis VanderZanden on March 12. 

“Bird is committed to serving the city of Austin and providing critical and essential mobility options to our community,” said a Bird spokesperson in an email. “We look forward to continuing to offer a safe transportation option as the community gradually reopens.”