The Covid Crisis Could Finally Make the Scooter Industry Profitable

As cities reopen, scooters seem safer than public transportation

Thomas Smith
Published in
6 min readJun 25, 2020


A Lime electric scooter is parked on a street in Santa Monica, California, on July 13, 2018. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this year, as Covid-19 began to spread worldwide and major cities went on lockdown, micromobility scooter companies took a major hit. With almost no customers out on the streets, newfound fears of foreign surfaces, and rampant concern about contagion, the future of the industry looked uncertain.

Most scooter companies pulled their fleets out of circulation. Here in San Francisco, only Ford-owned Spin was still operating as early as March. Bloomberg reported that Lime would be bankrupt in 12 weeks. Bird infamously laid off 400 staff members in a two-minute Zoom call. Both Lime and Bird reopened for business and then pulled scooters off streets a second time amid protests in early June. Even before the pandemic, the industry often appeared to be on shaky ground, with a glut of scooter operators, fickle relationships with cities, and challenges around maintenance and labor.

So, is the micromobility industry dead? Hardly.

Never underestimate the power of reams of venture capital money to float an industry through a challenging time. Economies are slowly beginning to reopen, and far from facing existential challenges, the scooter industry appears to be emerging from the early days of the crisis even stronger than before.

In April, Lime announced its Lime Aid program, which provided for a limited return of its scooters to selected markets — initially 15 cities, including Baltimore, Maryland, and Tel Aviv, Israel. Packaged with the program are lots of hopeful messages about social distancing and stock photos of smiling doctors wearing masks. Also included are free 30-minute rides for front-line medical workers, designed to add to the company’s “In This Together” cred.

Not to be outdone, rival company Bird announced its own program for health care workers and began to return its scooters to selected cities. The…