Dockless scooter companies charged into cities in 2018, promising a mobility revolution with cheap, clean rides and billions in venture capital backing. Yet they soon faced roadblocks, including shaky business models, safety concerns, and fast-moving city regulators. At the start of 2020, cash-losing operators were shrinking their headcounts and vehicle fleets.
Now as governments around the world fight to slow the coronavirus pandemic, micromobility companies are facing a deeper existential challenge. The two largest global operators, Lime and Bird, drastically reduced fleets by mid March. Several other startups, including Wheels and Jump, say they’re looking at how to continue operating as cities issue lockdown orders and demand plummets. The appeal of sharing a high-touch vehicle with an unknown number of strangers has succumbed to the fear of viral transmission.