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Lime e-bikes at the company’s maintenance facility in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Lime informed its Seattle customers Tuesday morning that it will remove its e-bikes from the city over the next week, a new wrinkle in the city’s deliberations over a scooter-sharing pilot program.

“Given our current permit expires at the end of the year, we are removing our bike fleet by December 31,” the company said in an email to customers this morning. “We remain very committed to working with the City of Seattle to create a robust mobility program in the Spring that includes a mix of free-floating scooters and improved bike options that are a priority to the City.”

It continued, “We understand that this will impact some of you. Our hope is to work with the City to create a strong multimodal micromobility system to serve the City long into the future.”

San Francisco-based Lime had an option to get a temporary permit in Seattle from January through March, but it will put its focus on the new mobility program.

“As we head into the winter season, we have already reduced our operations based on demand,” a Lime spokesperson said in a statement. “We are committed to working with the City of Seattle to create a robust mobility program that includes free floating scooters and improved bike options beginning in the spring. In the interim, we are removing our bike fleet.”

The company had reduced its fleet of e-bikes in Seattle to 2,000 for the winter months (from a maximum of nearly 4,000) and now will remove the bikes altogether. Lime’s decision leaves one remaining bike-sharing service in Seattle: Uber’s Jump.

“We currently have about 3,500 bikes in Seattle and are pleased with how popular they are among riders,” said Uber spokesperson Nathan Hambley in response to GeekWire’s inquiry. “We’ve seen significant growth since we launched and have no plans of scaling back operations going into 2020. We’re also optimistic about the possibility of operating both bikes and scooters in Seattle like we already do in a number of other cities.”

Seattle was early in embracing the trend of free-floating bike-sharing programs, but it has been slower than many other municipalities to adopt scooters. The city plans to launch a scooter-sharing pilot program in the spring, and just completed a public comment period on proposed rules and guidelines for the rollout.

Seattle regulators are taking their time before allowing scooters, even as surrounding communities embrace them. Neighboring cities Redmond, Tacoma, and Bothell launched scooter pilots in recent months.

It’s part of an ever-changing landscape for “micromobility” in the city. Lime previously ended its own car-sharing pilot program in Seattle, taking its LimePod vehicles off the street earlier this year. BMW’s car-sharing service, ReachNow, and car2go also ended operations in Seattle in recent months.

There were approximately 72,500 individual bike-sharing users in October, according to the city’s most recent monthly data report. Total trips fell from 169,000 to 156,000 in October, compared to last year. A September audit found that 18.4 percent of bikes — including both Lime and Jump — were “not in good working order,” and 51 percent were not rentable due to issues such as low battery or a mechanical locking issue.

Lime raised $310 million in February, bringing its valuation to $2.4 billion.

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