RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Electric scooter and bike rentals company Lime is launching 500 scooters in Richmond under the leadership of a Virginia Commonwealth University graduate.

The launch began on March 7 with 300 e-scooters through a partnership with community organization Sports Backers RVA. Over the coming days, an additional 200 scooters will be launched in the capital city.

“When I moved to Richmond … there were no bike lanes,” Robert Gardner, Lime’s director for the Mid-Atlantic Region. said. “There’s always been a very strong bicycling culture. But, at least for me, I never could have imagined anything like a dockless network.”

Fast forward to 2021, and Lime is not the only scooter option available to Richmond residents. In 2019, Bolt Mobility became the first company to deploy dockless e-scooters across the city. But Gardner said that Lime is different.

“We are the largest provider in the commonwealth,” Gardner said. “We’re bringing a bit of a different model to the City. It’s a little more centralized, in terms of the way we’re doing it. What you’ll find with Lime is that you can have a daily use habit. You can depend on there being a Lime scooter on your walk, on your errands, as opposed to sort of a variable deployment.”

Garder added that the model used for Lime’s e-scooters has been built purposely for urban environments, and is in use internationally in European countries and Australia.

Talks began with the City of Richmond in 2019 to expand Lime’s presence in the commonwealth. Lime already has programs in Alexandria, Arlington, Norfolk, Roanoke and Fairfax.

“I’ve had conversations with the City now for almost two years and we’ve been having various discussions, and we want to make sure that, as we turned a corner during COVID, that we were available,” Gardner said. “It does take some time to get permitted and it does take some time to make sure that we’ve ordered new scooters and that we have everything in place, we have a local pool of employees that are there.”

Garder said that local Lime employees will be going around to sanitize the newly-launched scooters, fully equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE). However, employees may not be able to get to every unit every day, so riders should be prepared with gloves or hand sanitizer.

(Photo: Lime)

“The opportunity to bring a socially distant, open-air form of transportation, we see it as just a great option to get people out, moving, and to get the City, I think, going again,” Gardner said. “We decided now is the right time.”

In addition to factoring in the health and safety concerns that Richmond residents may have as they use e-scooters, Lime is working to provide inexpensive transportation options to those who have experienced financial difficulties due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“If anybody has changed life circumstances — so if, for instance, you lost your job or you’re now in a situation where you’re on either state or federal benefits — we would ask you to go online and fill out our Lime Access form,” Gardner said. “So when you’re navigating the City, you’ll be able to do so very inexpensively.”

Lime Access provides a 70% discount on rides, which start at $1 and cost 32 cents for every minute thereafter.

To launch, Lime riders can download the app, enter their information, and scan a barcode to unlock the scooter.

“We would ask people to plan their ride so that they are riding in a way that’s responsible, using bike lanes when possible, for instance, trying to avoid sidewalks or areas where pedestrians are, and, of course, being vigilant for traffic,” Gardner said. “Once you end your ride, really, the goal is to make sure that the — whether it’s a rider or pedestrian who’s coming after you — you’ve kept it out of the way of that individual.”

Gardner said that Lime e-scooter riders should end their ride and leave the scooters out of the way of pedestrians and keeping enough room on sidewalks to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

If riders are not handling the scooters responsibly, or if there are any community concerns, Gardner said that Lime wants to know.

“The best sort of response to any community concerns is to do your best on the front end to try and minimize those concerns,” he said. “However, when those concerns do come about, we are always open. Our local team is happy to discuss any potential concerns. We want to get this right.”

Lime is also showcasing its regard for the community by partnering with local organization Sports Backers RVA. Through the Lime Hero program, riders will have the opportunity to round up the cost of their trip to support the nonprofit’s safe streets campaign.

“Sports Backers is a great organization. They’re doing such good work in promoting multimodal bike, scooter, and pedestrian-based transportation options,” Gardner said. “They have been working in Richmond for so long on active transportation. We wanted to have the opportunity to give back to those organizations that have really paved the way for micromobility.”

Those looking to try out a Lime e-scooter can pick one up now. Hundreds have already been installed in Richmond, with more on the way.

As for expanding Lime’s offerings in the capital city to bikes?

“When we were having conversations with the City, we were sort of looking at the available options throughout Richmond, and there is an active bike share program in the City,” Gardner said. “We wanted to focus on the scooter side of the business and make sure that there was that option available. But if the City, through our various conversations, the City comes back and they really want us to bring dockless bikes, we’ll absolutely move toward that direction.”