Scooter-sharing pioneers Bird and Lime deactivated their fleets in Santa Monica, Calif., this week to protest city officials signaling that rival companies Jump, owned by Uber, and Lyft may soon get exclusive licenses to operate in the city.
The move was prompted by the city's disclosure that applications from Jump and Lyft for permits granting exclusive rights to run dockless scooter services were the leading contenders, despite neither company operating in the area.
Ironically, the actions by Bird and Lime, which included providing incentives for irate users to rally at City Hall and lobby officials, mirror the strategy of two upstart mobility companies from a few years ago: Uber and Lyft.
In 2014, Uber was the one mobilizing users to lobby on its behalf when the company faced off with local authorities. Now, the companies prefer to go through state legislatures to pre-empt any local control over ride-hailing operators.
In an email to users, Bird wrote that the city's actions would be tantamount to "giving Exxon and BP Oil a monopoly over solar power."
The comparison seems dramatic, especially coming from a company that was the fastest startup to achieve a billion-dollar valuation. But it's not radical to say Uber and Lyft have consolidated competitive advantages in operational power that would be tough for any challenger to take on.
Regardless of whether Bird and Lime win this battle, they're just getting started in figuring out how to bend regulators to the companies' will.
— Shiraz Ahmed