Bikeshare company rolls out dockless electric mopeds in D.C.

Media Credit: Danielle Towers | Staff Photographer

Lime officials are using sensors to confirm moped riders are wearing helmets.

A fleet of electric mopeds hit the streets of Foggy Bottom earlier this month, giving students a new transportation option to navigate D.C.

Lime, a ride-sharing company for dockless vehicles, dispersed 100 new mopeds around the District and will roll out 500 more throughout the summer, adding to its offering of more than 2,000 electronic bikes and 2,500 scooters currently scattered around the District. Foggy Bottom residents said they welcome more environmentally friendly and affordable transportation options, but they’re concerned the deployment of the mopeds could cause safety and parking issues.

Robert Gardner, Lime’s mid-Atlantic director of government relations, said the mopeds will be “widely available” for riders age 21 and older on campus, in Foggy Bottom and in other areas of D.C.’s Central Business District. He said Lime wanted to offer affordable transportation options to cut down on the District’s car traffic, where D.C. commuters spend dozens of hours every year.

“D.C. is the first city globally for Lime to have mopeds launched where we’ve made the largest investment in vehicle type, safety and getting people into a socially distant and reliable form of transportation,” Gardner said.

He said Lime worked with the District Department of Transportation to ensure its deployment of mopeds followed city regulations, which require at least eight Lime vehicles to remain in each ward at a time. The company chose to “rebalance” a higher number of mopeds to the Central Business District, the Navy Yard and Ward 6 – busier areas with a high number of commuters – so locals can avoid using cars during their commutes.

Gardner said Lime officials are using technology to ensure all safety rules are followed, including a test that uses photos to verify that riders match their driver’s licenses and sensors that confirm riders are wearing a helmet.

He said the company consulted with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, a developer of motorcycle safety education materials, to design a mandatory, multi-chapter e-course for moped riders and traffic situation guides. Gardner added that Lime officials banned repeated violators of safety guidelines from registering accounts to use their vehicles to ensure pedestrians and other commuters stay safe.

“We are taking it a step further by making sure that the moped itself is top of the line, our education and curriculum are top of the line, but then additionally, our partnerships are with the best possible educational leaders,” Gardner said.

John George, the president of the Foggy Bottom Association, said he’s worried the mopeds could fill up parking spaces because of the limited street space in Foggy Bottom. He said he would like to see specific Lime-designated parking spaces that can fit multiple mopeds to save space for cars.

“In the short term, we have to think about how to address multiple modes of transportation that’s fair and equitable to all vehicle owners or renters,” George said.

George said Lime’s verification of driver’s licenses, helmet use and riding speed will help encourage moped riders to follow safety precautions and traffic laws. He said riders should understand that mopeds, unlike scooters and bikes, are a “serious” form of transportation, adding that law enforcement officials should enforce rules, like proper lane usage and stopping at stop signs.

“This is a mode of transportation that is a serious form, and you need to obey every rule of the road,” George said.

Foggy Bottom residents voiced similar safety and parking concerns when dockless bicycle programs were first introduced to the District in 2017. Since then, thousands of dockless bicycles and scooters have filled the streets of D.C.

The only other company to operate mopeds in the District currently is Revel, which deployed 400 mopeds in 2019.

George said pedestrians, commuters, governing bodies and law enforcement officials will need a “period of acclimation” for residents to grow accustomed to the increased number of mopeds and modify safety measures accordingly. He said FBA members plan to engage with community members through board meetings to gauge their reactions to the mopeds.

He said Lime should release public service announcements to better inform locals about the newest addition to transportation services in the District.

“There will be learning curves, and a lot of cities will look to us,” he said. “We will want to make sure to step up and do it right.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.