One of the most bizarre things to emerge from the era of free money were the so-called “micromobility” companies, which have littered the streets and sidewalks of major American cities with their cumbersome scooters and e-bikes. On the one hand, these companies have not and will not ever make any money. On the other hand, the scooters are kind of cool.
Discount programs are jurisdiction-dependent
In exchange for allowing these companies to flagrantly break the law and make sidewalks impassable to people with impaired mobility, many jurisdictions extracted promises that the companies make their products accessible to low-income people in their communities. Since these agreements were hashed out on a case-by-case basis, they vary widely by jurisdiction.
Free and discounted Lime scooters and e-bikes
If you visit the Lime Access application, you can find the drop-down menu showing (almost?) every city Lime operates in. They offer their “Lime Access” discount in each of those cities to qualifying applicants, but while in some cities Lime Access offers free scooter rides, in others it offers a flat 50% or 70% discount on rides, while in still others it offers special discounted unlocking and per-minute fees. Since the latter two are the most common, here’s the list of cities where Lime Access offers free rides (in the rest, a discount applies instead):
- Washington, DC
- Denver, CO
- New York City, NY
- Portland, OR (limited to 5 free 30-minute rides per day)
- West Sacramento, CA (limited to 5 free 30-minute rides per day)
- San Francisco, CA (unlimited 30-minutes rides with $5 membership fee)
- Seattle, WA (limited to 5 free 30-minute rides per day)
Unfortunately, not only are all these programs subject to change, they’re also subject to the whims of the companies themselves. Since they aren’t actually government programs, but merely terms of the license application for each company, your options for recourse are limited if the company doesn’t happen to like whatever documentation you submitted.
Other micromobility companies
Here are the links to apply for free and discounted rides through the other micromobility companies I was able to find:
- Bird: $5 per month for 5 free 30-minute rides per day
- Bolt: 50% off all rides
- Spin: 50% off all rides
- Helbiz (Skip): 100 free 30-minute rides per month
Public bikeshare services
Finally, long before the venture-capital-backed micromobility companies came along, a lot of cities already implemented their own public or public/private bikeshare services, and many of these have their own discounts for low-income residents. For example, Washington, DC, offers a $5 annual membership to its Capital Bikeshare program which provides free 60-minute rides, New York City’s Citi Bike offers $5 monthly memberships, and Portland, Oregon’s BIKETOWN offers free memberships and unlimited free 60-minute rides.
There are too many of these local services to provide a comprehensive accounting in a quick blog post, but if you walk around, you should hopefully know which services are in operation in your hometown, and apply for a free or discounted membership if at all possible.
When it comes to these means-tested programs, I use what I call a “spread offense,” not just to accumulate as many datapoints as possible for my beloved readers, but also because the first “knowledge hurdle” is the hardest to overcome. Once you know discounted micromobility programs exist, each subsequent program is easier to understand and to share with readers precisely what they need to know and to do in order to qualify.