Lime insists it doesn't know reason for Auckland scooter ban

From Checkpoint, 5:36 pm on 29 November 2019

Lime insists it has no real idea of why its scooters are being pulled from Auckland's streets.

Auckland Transport and the city council announced today four e-scooter companies had been granted renewals or new licences - Beam, Neuron and Jump - alongside the existing operator Flamingo.

Lime and Wave will be required to have their scooters deactivated by midnight on Monday and physically off the streets by next Friday.

Lime spokesperson Lauren Mentjox told Checkpoint the company had not been given many details to explain why its contract had not been renewed, despite getting a letter from the council about it.

"That's something we're going to be talking about with them over the coming days ... I haven't actually read [the letter] too closely, rather busy today, it's been quite a hectic day given the announcement, so I haven't had too much of an opportunity to have a look at what's in there.

"The letter doesn't have a lot of detail about those reasons, so that's what we need to look into."

In its announcement today, the council said safety was paramount, and the four operators chosen had better safety profiles than the others, including self-braking when going down hills.

Earlier this year, some Lime scooters suffered a serious braking fault and the council imposed tougher reporting requirements. It's also been linked to the death of one rider, while two others have been seriously injured in recent months.

However, she said Lime stood by the safety of its scooters and were keen to continue working with the council.

"Lime does a lot of work to incentivise riders to park responsibly, we have a lot of mechanisms to deal with nuisance and clutter, we've got a huge team in Auckland who have been working on this for a year ... so we'll be talking to them about what other operators have proposed.

"We're very disappointed ... We're not going anywhere, Lime still operates in other markets, we are a scooter company that is here for the long run and we'll continue to talk to the council about what's happening in the next six months."

She said she could not comment on the details of the death involving the Lime e-scooter, because it was before the Coroner, but stated: "There's nothing that suggests there was anything wrong with the scooter."

Asked whether Lime had complied with all of its reporting requirements that were imposed on it following the troubles, Ms Mentjox told Checkpoint that they did so "to the best we can".

"We comply with the council and provide weekly reports to them. During the trial, we've had a really close relationship with the council, we meet with them regularly, we have an operations team here who come and talk to them as well, we update them on a regular basis about our products and services, and we do our very best to communicate everything and will continue to do that.

"We've done absolutely everything we can to comply with what the council's conditions are."

Part of those requirements from the council also state for serious accidents in Auckland to be reported to them within 24 hours. Asked about the number of serious accidents reported in Auckland this year, Ms Mentjox said she did not have a number at the top of her head.

"But what I can tell you is that serious accidents are reported to the council ... and we have had two serious accidents in the past few weeks, we're working with the council on those. While I don't have a number, we do report those to the council."

But it wasn't always something they were able to keep an eye on, she said, due to the nature of the business and accidents.

"Just like with any form of transportation there are accidents and there are risks of accidents often if people do have something happen, they don't come to us [first], so sometimes we are the last to find out."

Regarding the two recent serious accidents, she said she could not comment further on those either.

"I'm not sure how they are doing, I believe they are still in hospital, but I can't comment beyond that ... We're checking up all the time [on them] Lisa, but it's not something we really talk about through the media, we deal with the council and we deal with the authorities, we are dedicated to the safety of our riders and we're always doing what we can to improve."

Person riding a Lime scooter in Auckland city.

Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

However, she said Lime had no reason to believe there was anything wrong with the scooters in those two cases.

"We have really robust processes in the back end, we can check our data, we've got a whole lot of ways that we can check that."

Asked about how many riders in accidents had been compensated, she said "probably about a handful".

"Lime has a compensation process, where riders can ask to be compensated, but I don't know how much would've been paid out, that's not something I'm across."

She said that the compensation paid out was "probably [for] property damage".

But that compensation process had now been disestablished in New Zealand, she said.

As part of that process there was also an "agreement" that was signed, she said.

"The agreements that people sign is a mutual release, it's a waiver that allows people to acknowledge that they have received compensation.

She denied the agreement stopped people from disclosing their compensation or accident publicly.

"It's really based on a US system, so that's what it comes down to, and it's something that Kiwis aren't familiar with and that's why we made the decision to do away with it."

Lime has a team of about 50 people in the city and is still figuring out what losing the contract means for those workers.