Lime to add 300 more e-scooters to Christchurch footpaths

From Checkpoint, 5:12 pm on 28 February 2019

Lime claims to have fixed a brake locking glitch on its scooters, but representatives were this morning unable to give figures on how many scooters were affected, or how many people were injured. 

At a meeting of Christchurch City Council today, the company's permit was extended for a year and it was given permission to extend its fleet in the city to 1000.

The council today also capped the total number of e scooters it would allow in the city to 1600 - Lime has nearly two thirds of that - and set a rental fee of just over $86 a year per scooter paid to the council.

Lime dominated headlines in recent weeks after it was revealed a glitch, which meant the scooters' brakes would sometimes engage automatically when going downhill, had thrown at least 155 riders off.

One man who spoke to Checkpoint this week said he was thrown off his Lime scooter in October, but did not hear from the company until last Sunday. That left a sour taste in the mouth of Auckland and Dunedin councils, who pulled the scooters off the streets last Friday.

Three Lime employees faced Christchurch council this morning and promised the glitch had been fixed and the scooters were "absolutely safe".

They agreed to their first interview with Checkpoint after the meeting, with all previous requests since reports on the safety problem first surfaced having been refused. 

Matthew McNeil, Lime's New Zealand city launcher, said the company was "over the moon" about the extensions granted in Christchurch. 

He said the central team had been working day and night on the problem. 

"And they've obviously gone into a third-party investigation with a third party consultant as well, and we've been able to identify the root cause of that and implement some new firmware updates that have eradicated the problem."

Rack 'em up: Lime scooters for hire outside the TraffiNZ conference on Wellington's waterfront this week - as part of a charm offensive in the capital.

 Lime scooters for hire. Photo: PHOTO / RNZ Colin Peacock

He said that every lime scooter was now categorically safe from that braking issue. 

Lime's Christchurch operations manager Hamish Ellis promised the council that the scooters were safe and said the company had done more to address safety concerns.

"We also at a local level continue to remove any scooters that are broken or have negative customer service tickets, we increased our quality assurance checks and we've increased the number of staff that are conducting these," he said. 

Deputy mayor Andrew Turner - who chaired today's meeting - explained why he believed they worked so well in Christchurch.

"We're fortunate that we've got a flat city, we're fortunate that we've got a city with good infrastructure.

"We as a city which is progressive absolutely need to be working in a way that allows for that to happen where Christchurch can be seen as an exemplar ... that other cities are looking at and say 'well it works in Christchurch, how can we replicate that in our city'."

Meanwhile, Auckland and Dunedin councils are considering whether to let the scooters back on their streets.

Lime representatives shaky on the facts

Lime to add 300 more e scooters to Christchurch footpaths

  Lime's New Zealand city launcher Matthew McNeil Photo: RNZ / YouTube

Some statements made to Checkpoint today also seemed to contradict earlier statements by the company.

While the representatives were confident the braking problem was fixed, they were not confident on some crucial facts. They could not say when the first wheel-locking incident was, how many people had been injured by it in New Zealand, or how many scooters were potentially affected. 

"We had a confirmed number of occurrences," Mr McNeill said - but he was uncertain what it was.  

"Actually, I'd have to get back to you on the exact number sorry ... you're totally right, it is an important number, I just don't have it off the top of my head."

None of the other representatives could say what that number was either.

Mr McNeil also said they knew of the braking problem last month, despite Lime's director of government affairs APAC Mitchell Price claiming in an NZ Herald opinion piece this week that the company became aware of the braking issue only a few weeks ago.

"We became aware of the customer service reviews in January," Mr McNeil said.  

That was despite claims from some riders that the problem had been occurring since October. 

When the interview started getting into the details, Lime's representatives said they had to leave and go to the airport. They wouldn't say when their flight was.