Community feature: Alive's Guide to Birds and Limes

Erica Thompson
Joel Oliphint testing Bird and Lime scooters for Alive

The summer of 2018 will forever be remembered as that time Bird and Lime dock-less electric scooters descended on Columbus and surrounding areas to the delight and dismay of residents. The city of Bexley, for example, wasted no time removing the Birds, which landed on July 11.

“It is the City of Bexley's understanding that both Ohio and Bexley law prohibits the use of motorized scooters on the roadway or sidewalk,” read the city'sofficial statement. “Additionally, concerns regarding the placement and staging of vehicles in City right-of-way would require any user to obtain permission from the City prior to establishing a private vehicle rental operation that requires the use of City property.”

Despite the lack of regulation, the city of Columbus is allowing the Los Angeles-based Birds and San Francisco-based Limes, which arrived on July 29, to fly.

“At this point there have been some conversations with the companies,” said Jeffrey Ortega, assistant director of the Department of Public Service. “The intent behind these conversations will be to give residents and visitors access to these kind of services … [while] safely and effectively managing the public's right of way.”

“Bird looks to partner and collaborate with cities, such as Columbus, that share our vision of creating a community with fewer cars, less traffic and reduced carbon emissions,” the Bird spokesperson toldAlive. “We are working in partnership with the city and community leaders to bring that vision to life in Columbus, as we do in each of the cities we operate in."

“Since beginning our Ohio operations in Dublin, Worthington and Columbus in May, we have become the largest smart mobility provider in Central Ohio," said Kyle Bivenour, Lime Operations Manager, Columbus. "We recently introduced electric scooters to our existing bike fleet in Columbus and are expanding our program to Ohio State University this week. We are thrilled to be a part of the greater-Columbus community and look forward to continue making a positive impact on sustainable mobility in the region.”

While Columbus has seen its share of improper riding and parking of scooters — though nonethrown in trees just yet — there are plenty of residents who want to take advantage of the transportation responsibly and safely. If you're among that group, here is our guide to using Birds and Limes.

Where they are

Bird scooters are currently located in Downtown, Short North and the Arena District.

Lime scooters — and pedal-powered bicycles — are currently located in Clintonville, Linden, Campus, the South Side and Downtown.

How they work

Both Birds and Limes are accessed via a smartphone app, which locates the nearest scooters. They both require a driver's license (you must be 18 or older to ride) and a credit/debit card. Once a scooter is located, you must scan the QR code to unlock it. Both companies request riders wear helmets, but Bird allows users to request free helmets (plus $2 shipping) in the “safety” section of the app.

Both companies said scooters must be ridden during daytime only in bike lanes and on the street (though Limes also boast a tail light and headlight for early morning and dusk rides). Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein has permitted scooter use on sidewalks, though, pending future regulation. Scooters must be locked with the app, and parked at bike racks, curbside or otherwise out of public pathways. They are then collected each night and charged.

If moved without unlocking, the Bird will beep, while the Lime warns in a stern voice, “Please unlock me to ride me, or I'll call the police.”

How much they cost

Both Birds and Limes cost $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute to ride.

For lower-income residents who provide proof of state or federal assistance, Birds will eliminate the unlocking fee, while Lime provides a 50 percent discount on rides.

How to make money

You can sign up to be a Bird “charger” or Lime “juicer” via the apps. You'll pick up the scooters, charge them at home and take them back into the community. According toThe Rideshare Guy and, you can make at least $5 per charge.

How they compare (speed, ease of ride)

Our associate editor, Joel Oliphint, was the first person on staff to give the Bird scooters a try, which qualifies him as our resident expert. So we sent him out to do a highly scientific time trial to determine which scooter is faster.

Oliphint took the scooters to the Scioto Mile and rode each one twice down a .07-mile stretch, or an approximately 90-second walk, and used three kicks each time to take off. He averaged 20 seconds on the Lime and 22 seconds on the Bird.

Although the Lime is faster, it's noisier and rockier — like riding “a souped-up kid's scooter,” as Oliphint put it. If you prefer a smoother ride, go with the Bird.