Lyft, a third scooter competitor, hit the streets of Minneapolis on July 1. Lime and Spin started this season’s operations earlier in the spring, and rival Jump, owned by ride share heavyweight Uber, will likely be joining soon.
With the mid-year advent of a third scooter network operator, I tested out Lime and Lyft scooters head-to-head (wearing a helmet for each test ride) to share the strengths and weaknesses of both models and networks. I did not test Spin because in order to operate, the Spin app requires location data always be shared, even when the app is not in use.
I brought along my measuring tape to both rides because I had a hunch that the new Lime scooter for 2019 had higher handlebars than competitors. I was right: the new Lime scooter has a height — from top of the ride platform where your feet rest to the top of the handlebars — of about 44½ inches (113 cm) versus 37½ inches (95 cm) on the Lyft scooter. If you are tall like me (5 feet 11½ inches, 182 cm), then the Lime is a much more comfortable and safe ride. If you are half-a-foot shorter, you may well prefer the Lyft scooter (a Mi model from Chinese device maker Xiaomi).
The range of both scooters leaves much to be desired for all-day battery life. The new Lime scooter’s specifications are not public, but the highest range on the Lime app I could find was 15.0 miles at 6:00 a.m. On Amazon, the model of scooter that Lyft uses, a Mi model from Chinese device maker Xiaomi, has a published range of 18.6 miles. For vehicles so light, the true determinant of range is the rider’s weight and wind resistance. For distance comparison, to bike or scooter from the northern border of Minneapolis to the southern border is about 12.1 miles. This is fine for a single long trip, but by the early evening, many scooters are fully or nearly depleted.
One feature that I appreciated about Lyft’s Mi was the larger wheel diameter. This made going over small bumps and curb cuts easier and safer. The horsepower of both the Lime and Lyft models was comparable. Neither was like driving a Tesla Model 3, and that’s a very good thing. These scooters are software-limited to about 15 miles per hour, the same speed as a fast bicyclist.
Traditionally, electric scooter share is priced at $1 to start and 15 cents per minute. One difference between Lime and Lyft is if sales tax is included or not. Lime includes sales tax in the list price, so my four minute ride was $1.60. For Lyft, which does not include sales tax, a different four minute ride was $1.60 before tax, then 13 cents (8.125%) of sales tax, coming to a total of $1.73. Because of this sly accounting, Lyft scooter rides are really about 8.125% more than Lime rides.
With a higher handlebar height, Lime scooters are designed for the tall person of San Francisco and Minneapolis. If you don’t consider yourself a tall person, then the Lyft scooter will be perfectly sized for you. Battery range for both in the real world is likely around 15 miles, which should cover wherever you want to go with a scooter. On pricing, Lyft doesn’t include sales tax in the list price, so another 8 percent is tacked on at the end.
Another thing I have noticed again and again is how inconveniencing it is to not have a small basket for a purse, small shopping bag, water bottle, etc. It is a little dangerous to be holding onto belongings with the left hand, when that is the hand that is supposed to use the brake when needed. Scooter companies should add inward-facing baskets to their scooters pronto.