CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Limebike, the company behind the electric scooters that were unveiled throughout uptown Charlotte earlier this week, said they will be stopping their operations, for now.
Channel 9 learned the company rolled out the scooters illegally and they had to be removed by Saturday.
The city of Charlotte is working to establish a permit for the scooters and they could be back on the streets by May 21.
The drama continued to play out Friday, while the company tries to drum up public support to persuade city leaders to keep the scooters on the streets.
An online petition launched by Limebike on Thursday is asking people to email city leaders to save the prohibited scooters.
Limebike started the scooter ride-share program Tuesday. The company said the scooters have been well received, with nearly 1,000 scooter trips in two days. The company didn't say how many scooters were in service.
Earlier this week, Channel 9 reporter Mark Barber broke the news that the scooters were rolled out illegally and had to be removed by Friday because Limebike did not get a permit with the Charlotte Department of Transportation before unveiling them.
The company's attempt to bypass the approval process backfired on Thursday, when Councilman Tariq Bohkari tweeted, "Hey Limebike, the next time you rally our city to send hundreds of template emails jamming up my city account to express support, why not tell them the whole story? Like how you didn't follow the pilot permit protocol and decided to ask for forgiveness rather than permission."
Two other councilmembers also tweeted their own frustrations after they were inundated with more than 300 emails.
City leaders said a permit is necessary because they worry Charlotte could be liable if someone gets hurt on scooters.
City officials said they had been working with Limebike to create a scooter sharing program when the company ended discussions and began offering service.
If the scooters aren't removed Friday, the city can start impounding them and levy fines against Limebike.
"I have made the request that if it is necessary, that they will make the fines impactful because this is from what I've learned from other cities who have reached out, that this is a tactic they've used in the past -- to ask forgiveness, not permission," Bohkari said.
Before launching the online petition, Lime told Channel 9 in a statement:
We have, and will continue to work collaboratively with the city towards a common-sense regulatory solution that prioritizes rider safety and accessibility, while maintaining our scooters as an affordable, transportation alternative for residents of Charlotte. We look forward to continuing to serve locals with a convenient way to get around, as we have done for more than 20,000 riders in Charlotte since launching last year.
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