Q&A: Lime’s mission to advance micromobility for sustainable and inclusive transport
To coincide with Climate Week NYC and the United Nations SDG Summit, both taking place this September in New York City, the GI Hub is publishing interviews with public and private sector leaders working at the municipal, state, national, and global levels – bringing you their thoughts on the importance of infrastructure in the climate transition.
Today we are joined by Andrew Savage, Vice President of Sustainability at Lime – the world’s largest shared electric vehicle company, providing short-term rentals of electric bikes and scooters in more than 280 cities and nearly 30 countries.
Andrew explains what Lime is doing to deliver on its mission to build a future where transportation can be shared, affordable, and carbon-free.
What is micromobility, and what impact can it have on the climate transition?
Micromobility helps passengers get safely from A to B over short distances using lighter two- and three-wheeled vehicles like e-bikes and e-scooters.
Transportation is the second leading contributor of greenhouse gas emissions globally, largely due to personal cars. To address climate change and make cities more liveable, we need to revolutionise urban transportation toward a shared, electric, and carbon-free future.
Shared micromobility can be one of the most sustainable modes in the world. A trip on one of our vehicles is emission-free and uses a fraction of the carbon of a comparable car trip, when we consider our manufacturing and operations. Our riders have taken 450 million trips, replaced an estimated 100 million car trips, and avoided more than 40,000 metric tonnes of emissions.
Our industry’s potential climate impact is enormous. Micromobility already has an impact on reducing climate change which far exceeds all electric vehicles deployed globally, according to recent studies.
How does Lime champion social inclusion?
Communities thrive when people are connected. We’re dedicated to sustainable transportation for all, regardless of age, background, income, or ability.
We have three main equity programs:
- Lime Access: We launched this program in 2018 to ensure cost would never be a barrier. Qualifying riders receive discounts on every ride, and to date, we’ve served more 850,000 Lime Access trips.
- Lime Assist: As a first-of-its-kind program, our adaptive vehicles meet a wide spectrum of abilities and are available to riders at no cost. We deliver the vehicle to a rider’s door and pick it up when they have finished using it.
- Lime Hero: This program allows riders to round up the costs of their rides to support community organisations in their hometowns. We currently have partnerships with more than 50 organisations globally that are taking on clean air, safe streets, youth and community programming, services for the unhoused, and more. To date, more than 85,000 Lime Hero riders have raised more than USD393,000.
Can you tell us more about your micromobility pilot in the Bronx and how it supports inclusive infrastructure?
The goal of the Bronx e-scooter sharing pilot is to provide a safe, affordable, and sustainable way to get around, and our data show it’s working extremely well. Since its launch, we’ve had more than 1.2 million rides taken, which have collectively avoided more than 100 metric tonnes of emissions and more than 275,000 car trips. This shows how micromobility can help cities meet their sustainability and transportation goals and create a more equitable and affordable city.
Ridership is strong throughout the pilot zone – riders are using our vehicles to connect to buses and subway stops that once required long walks. This is bolstered by Lime Access and Lime Assist to expand accessibility for Bronx residents and help New York build an inclusive future of transportation that is safe and affordable for all.
The NYC Mayor’s office and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have chosen to expand the program to Queens next year, and we believe it will continue to demonstrate how communities can benefit from micromobility to fill gaps in existing transit networks. This is crucial to offering more attractive options that can encourage people out of cars, yielding safer, healthier, and more sustainable cities.
How is Lime working to enhance the lifespan of micromobility vehicles to reduce e-waste, and how can better data support this?
This is an area I’m most proud of as a company. Shared vehicles from the earliest days in our industry simply didn’t last long enough. We quickly understood that this wasn’t good for business or for the environment, so we invested in an in-house engineering team, and committed to custom-designing our vehicles for longevity and sustainability.
To initially understand our impact and opportunities for improvement, we completed independent lifecycle analyses following ISO standards for our vehicles. Those results showed us that extending scooter lifetimes, increasing circularity through part reuse from decommissioned scooters, and using zero-emissions fleet vehicles were the biggest areas for reducing our overall carbon impact.
One outcome of these analyses was the introduction of interchangeable batteries for our bikes and scooters, allowing us to streamline operations across more markets and reduce the need to charge vehicles in a warehouse. Now, we can easily swap and exchange full batteries on the streets, cutting the number of operational trips by almost half. This has also unified our once-separate bike and scooter teams, so batteries are now transported using smaller, lower-carbon vehicles.
How can the public and private sectors work together to deliver more sustainable and inclusive infrastructure?
This is already happening in many cities, where revenue from micromobility programs is funding infrastructure improvements, and where data we share are used by cities to determine new bike lane locations.
Inclusivity is also hugely important, and micromobility helps fill the gaps where easy or affordable access to transportation wasn't previously available. We work with cities around the world to address underserved populations by providing better access to sustainable transportation. Our recent research shows this to be a success.
We worked with Monash University Professor Alexa Delbosc to understand how Lime Access rider usage differs from non-Access users. The researchers surveyed more than 1,000 Lime riders in Australia, New Zealand, and the US, and roughly 10% of respondents used Lime Access. 44% of their trips connected to or from public transit as part of a multimodal journey, and when public transit was unavailable, 34% of their trips replaced public transport.
We also advocate for the green, sustainable, car-free future we want to see in the world. It’s our mission to decarbonise transportation, and we encourage other private sector members to join in these efforts to build sustainable cities of the future.
What can governments at the state, national, and global level do to create better enabling environments for micromobility operation and investment? Have you seen examples of this in action?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen cities begin to view micromobility as an essential service, with governments globally embracing sustainable, human-scale transportation.
To encourage micromobility, governments must rethink cities around people, not cars. Core to this is making people feel safe in taking alternatives, by building protected bike lanes and bike parking. Cities in Europe have been leading the way, and many US cities are catching up, including NYC which is building bike infrastructure in the Bronx to accompany our thriving e-scooter pilot. Cities like Denver, Seattle, and Washington D.C. are all building protected bike lanes and parking to get people out of cars and onto two wheels. We’ve also seen public rebates for e-bike purchases have overwhelming success in states like Colorado and Vermont.
We think a lot about working with cities to set programs up for success from the start, but also about adapting and improving experiences as we go. It’s about creating partnerships that allow micromobility to thrive, and we’re doing this to great effect in places like NYC, LA, Chicago, Nashville, Washington D.C., Seattle, and Denver.
The NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice released PlaNYC: Getting Sustainability Done action plan in April, with a focus on transportation, safety, accessibility, and micromobility. Goal 22 is to 'Create the next generation of bike lanes and facilities so every New Yorker can travel safely and efficiently; create thousands of secure public bike parking spots, starting in 2025; and expand dockless e-scooter and e-bike share systems'. How can the public and private sector make this happen?
There is no sustainable future without decarbonising transportation, so we’re glad the action plan focuses on expanding access to affordable car alternatives. We began working the NYC Mayor’s office, including the DOT, well before the Bronx e-scooter pilot was even an idea. We have served parts of the city for more than five years and have built a foundation of understanding about long-term community benefits, which helped to strengthen the pilot program when the current administration began. This healthy working relationship with the DOT will help ensure infrastructure like bike parking and protected bike lanes are developed, along with increased micromobility services, especially in the communities with the greatest need.
Increasing access to sustainable transportation by expanding shared e-scooters and micromobility goes hand-in-hand with those infrastructure improvements. We’ve done this work as private sector partners to cities around the world and we’ve already made progress here in NYC. We look forward to continuing to support expanded transportation infrastructure here and to continue demonstrating how expanded micromobility services can help create the sustainable future we all want.
Infrastructure empowers people and transforms communities – when it benefits everyone. Through extensive research, the GI Hub has identified six key action areas for inclusivity in infrastructure. Learn more about these action areas, and how infrastructure professionals can build capacity in inclusive infrastructure development and delivery through our Certificate in Inclusive Infrastructure.