If you’re like me, you’ve been itching to get your hands on one of those electric scooters that are popping up all around town. But which one to use? Bird or Lime?
Well, in the name of ‘research’ and ‘public education,’ Grey and I made the sacrifice (sacrifice??!!) and wasted a few hours on a recent Saturday afternoon, doing a head-to-head comparison. Here is what we found.
(BTW, all italics is Grey’s contribution. Welcome to the blogging world, kiddo.)
I think some people use these scooters to actually get somewhere, but we were in it purely for joyriding.
I like speed, so get-up-and-go is important to me. From what I’ve read, Birds and Limes supposedly have the same top speed, but that wasn’t our experience. Limes have a digital readout (Birds do not), so you can evaluate its speed and battery life in real time. On the flat, our Lime hit 18 MPH. When I climbed the University Parkway hill, the top speed reduced to 12 MPH:
Grey Note: Let it by known that Dad LEFT me and I had no idea where he was. He said he would test the Lime and that’s it, but then he disappeared.
Barnaby Note: Grey was supposed to be looking for the elusive 2nd scooter, while I put the Lime through its paces.
Later, when we rented a Bird and Lime together, the Bird couldn’t keep up to the Lime, even when we put the much lighter Grey on the Bird while climbing hills.
Both seemed to handle about the same.
In terms of braking, Lime (left circle) has a mechanical brake like you’d find on a bike. Bird (right circle) has a lever. Both seem to work OK, but I felt more in control with the Lime-style traditional brake, versus an electric brake.
Do you not mind looking like a tourist in your own town? Then Lime is for you. With its neon lime green accents, huge vertical-fanny-pack-looking thing hanging off the front, and honking “$1 to Start” promotional message on the deck, you won’t slide under the radar with a Lime.
Bird, on the other hand, has a slimmer profile and a sleek Batman look. Grey also liked the Bird’s better visual balance.
Grey Note: The symmetricality of the Bird gives it some brownie points. Lime has a speedometer, so that’s helpful.
And if you care about ‘cool factor,’ our Bird had chic neon underglow lights that illuminated the ground in rotating colors:
Bird and Lime both cost $1 to start, 15 cents per minute to ride. Distance traveled doesn’t matter.
Before we left the house, I googled “lime promo code” and “bird promo code” and both times was drawn into the RetailMeNot site, where I copied a code that was too good to be true:
When I pasted the two codes into their respective apps, they both ‘worked,’ but the payoff was significantly less than promised. For example, the $50 Lime credit turned into “3 free unlocks” or $3 if I took 3 trips. Big whoop.
The Bird promise was even better:
I can’t remember what the Bird code turned into when I pasted it, and I can’t find in the app where the credit lives. And, worst of all, it didn’t give me any credit when I took my first ride. Suddenly Lime’s $3 was looking generous.
Regardless, the bang for the buck is pretty good for either, assuming you are taking short jaunts. Total cost for the afternoon (for both Bird and Lime) for 3 starts, 4.9 miles, and 51 minutes of scootering was $9.80. It would have been $10.80 without the Lime promo code. Much cheaper than an hour at the go-kart track, and MUCH cheaper than an hour of segway-ing.
Cost Winner: TIE
Bird and Lime both deploy hundreds of scooters in Baltimore, but finding a scooter is harder than you think. If you live in Canton or Mount Vernon, they seem to be like a poorly-parked car – one every couple blocks. But we live in grassier parts, so we had to drive to find one.
I pulled up the Lime app and found two within close walking distance. I figured we’d rent one, then ride (and walk) to the second one. We parked near the first one, walked to the designated spot, and swiveled our heads in every direction. Nothing. Then Grey spotted it on the far side of the street, across a grassy median.
We moved to the supposed location of the second one, but couldn’t find it.
After tooling around on the one Lime for a while, we returned to the car and began a hunt for two Birds. We found two on the app map in Mayfield. When we drove there, we only found one.
By now, Grey had sleuthed out how to chirp a missing scooter to zero in on it. We spent too much time chirping the missing scooter, with him swearing he could hear it, and me remarking how a ‘Bird chirp’ probably sounds really similar to a ‘bird chirp.’
We finally gave up and drove to a ‘flock’ of four Birds in the Cylburn neighborhood. Nothing.
A short drive to another flock, but again nothing. Maybe someone was charging them indoors and didn’t take them offline? I’m not sure, but it was frustrating.
Finally, we gave in and drove to Mount Vernon, where Birds on the map actually roost in real life. We were in business, I thought, except the Bird app demanded a scan of a driver’s license before it would go.
I understand Bird’s need to dodge liability and protect its assets, but Lime didn’t require a license scan, and I get nervous when companies demand too much personal information. Major corporate hacks seem to happen every week now, and companies don’t always have your best interests in mind (Exhibit A: Facebook).
Regardless, we weren’t gonna roll without a license scan, so I capitulated, and handed off the Bird to Grey. He is 16, or two years short of the minimum age required to ride these foot rockets. I don’t normally condone rule-breaking, but corporate rules don’t have the same weight as government ones, so I don’t mind overlooking them occasionally. For example, Pippa has used Uber a few times, despite being shy of their age 18 requirement.
Grey Note: A major thing missing from this section is the ability to rent two scooters at the same time. We were initially going to do two Birds then two Limes once we got downtown, but we had to settle with doing one of each. I had signed in to the Bird app on my phone with my Dad’s account, and started a session with that phone. Then he used his phone on another nearby Bird, but it knew he was renting one out already. We did spot a Lime within 100′, so we were OK, but don’t expect to be able to rent two of the same brand with only one account.
If you are looking for a side hustle, Bird and Lime both offer the opportunity to charge scooters as a ‘Bird Charger’ or ‘Lime Juicer.’
I haven’t done it, but here’s how it works:
- Sign up
- Get oriented and receive charging cables (which work on either scooter)
- Find scooters that need charging
- Capture the scooters and charge them – typically 4-5 hours to go from 0-100% battery
- Release the charged scooters between 4 and 7am at a ‘Bird Nest’ or ‘LimeHub’
The pay varies depending on how badly the scooter needs charging and whether you get it back into service in a timely manner. Typically you can earn $4-5 per charge.
Cost is mostly your time, and maybe a 25-cent-per-charge adder to your electric bill.
Not a bad side hustle if you have some free time and live in a neighborhood where these scooters like to congregate.
Income Winner: TIE
Lime was the clear winner in our little afternoon of trials, but if a Lime was a couple blocks away and a Bird in front of me, I wouldn’t make the 2-block trek. They both seem solid, with Lime somewhat better.
And I’m looking forward to trying Lime-E electric bikes, 100 of which recently dropped on Baltimore streets (identified in the Lime app by a blue lightning bolt icon).
I hope they survive longer than Baltimore’s 2014 bike-sharing program that saw four dozen bikes stolen in one day in Druid Hill Park. The on-board GPS devices should help – it serves as a built-in LoJack.
If you want to join us in our next phase of this important research, let me know.