Credit: William Lambert
Lime vs. Bird: An E-Scooter Review
Who will take the crown, or helmet in this case??
April 18, 2019
Hallelujah, it’s raining… electric scooters??? It seems as though they appeared overnight just a few months ago, and in fact, they did! The City of Charlottesville approved a dockless scooter and e-bike pilot program on December 7th, 2018, and the following morning, one hundred electric-powered scooters and 50 pedal-assisted bikes popped up in the city. Two companies, Lime and Bird, are currently permitted to participate in Charlottesville’s program. Lime squeezed in first, peddling their bright green electric bikes and scooters around the grounds of UVA, the Corner, and the Downtown Mall. Bird flew onto the scene with one hundred more scooters under its wing a month later in January. Their devices are a bit more subtle, taking on a dark grey color scheme. Aside from the physical differences, what sets these two mysterious companies apart? How should you choose between Lime and Bird? We sent an intrepid review crew into the bustling metropolis that is Charlottesville to find out exactly the answer.
When Life Gives You Limes…
After spending some time trying to find a place to park downtown with an abundance of both brands of e-scooter, my comrade and I were finally ready to commence our review. For some reason, William was dying to prove Bird’s superiority over Lime, so he assumed responsibility for that half of the critique, while I made the smarter decision to stick with Lime. Both companies charge the same flat rate of one dollar to unlock, and fifteen cents per minute to ride, so what exactly is the difference between the options? It’s a matter of user experience, where, in my opinion, Lime wins hands down.
First of all, Lime includes a speedometer and battery meter built into their scooters, and Bird does not. That may not be terribly important to every rider, but I like to have the information right in front of me, not just in the app, especially when it comes to battery life. Second, and this is definitely a matter of preference as William prefers Bird’s implementation, but I am a big fan of the manual handbrake on the Lime. Bird’s brake is electronic, and is activated by pressing down on a thumb trigger, while Lime is much more like a classic bike, including a manual squeeze trigger. I found the Lime brake to be much more responsive than Bird’s, which failed to stop the scooter when I was riding down a hill. Lime, however, brought me to a satisfying, almost screeching halt. Also, as a taller individual, I appreciate the taller handlebars on the Lime. I found myself bending down a bit too far for comfort on the Bird, which shorter people might prefer.
Supposedly, Birds are slightly faster than Limes, but I found myself flying ahead of my Bird-bound friend on multiple occasions, not the least of which being when his scooter died in the middle of a busy downtown intersection. Too bad he didn’t have a battery meter… When he finally found another Bird nearby, and paid another dollar to unlock it, he discovered that it was malfunctioning. Dangerous as it seemed, he wasn’t keen to walking the mile and a half back to our car, so he took it anyway.
After a brief photo-op in Court Square, which we later learned was illegal (oops), we parked our scooters and got ready to head home. This point was my single qualm with the Lime, as it took a few tries to lock it up with the app. It was indicating that I was in the Downtown Mall No Parking Zone, despite the fact that we were hundreds of feet away from the mall. This is definitely a GPS issue, so I don’t blame Lime too much, but I didn’t appreciate being charged for the time I was spending trying to park it.
Anyway, in conclusion, the Lime user experience is better than Bird’s. William had way too much trouble with his Bird scooter, paid more money than he was expecting, and he was probably just having bad luck, but that’s not something I’d be willing to risk if I need to get somewhere quickly.
A Bird in the Hand is Worth None in the Bush
Fresh off my Lime scooter adventure, expectations were high for the supposedly faster Bird scooter. These expectations were not met.
To start, the scooters were sparsely scattered around Downtown Charlottesville. I passed by several tempting Lime scooters before finally locating one of their ‘avian’ counterparts. I noticed the first shortcoming as August sped ahead up the hills and lost me on the straights. The worst moment of our journey was when, without warning, my scooter died in the middle of Belmont Bridge crossing the lane of oncoming traffic. The scooter locked up, so I had no choice but to pick it up and carry it to safety. Luckily there was a flock of Bird scooters a short walk away from where I was stranded. These scooters led to an even bigger disappointment.
The first device that I paid to unlock did not work at all and I was forced to lock it and pay again to unlock a second. This second one had an issue where it would keep accelerating even without my hand on the trigger labeled “Go”. I discovered this fault when I almost drove into a car while stopped at a traffic light.
Nevertheless, the Bird did have its pluses. The shorter handlebar of the Bird was much more comfortable for me to control and reminiscent of riding my Razor Scooter around the neighborhood. The brakes (when they work) are also better on the Bird, as they are electric and provide a much smoother stop than on the Lime scooter.
Overall, I would choose to ride a Lime scooter because of the availability, speed, and apparent absence of the many flaws of the Bird scooters in my experience.