The fast-growing electronic scooter company Lime decided to immediately remove one of the company's brands from every city in the world after it was determined that the scooters could break apart while in use.
The decision to suddenly pull the scooters off the street arrived several weeks after the company said that the same model occasionally falls apart "if subjected to repeated abuse."
But on Friday – in response to questions from The Washington Post about the disintegration of the scooters under the tensions of normal driving conditions – Lime said that "it was investigating that scooters manufactured by Okai might break and cooperate with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and the relevant authorities to reach a low point internationally. "
Okai is a Chinese manufacturer that makes scooters and other products. No one could be reached at an e-mail address or at a telephone number listed on his website – or at a telephone number provided by Lime.
Lime said it would dismantle all the Okai scooters that are in use across the fleet, but according to company officials it was difficult to determine the exact number of scooters affected by the recall and was refused to estimate. to give. They also refused to reveal how many American cities the devices possess.
Riders in cities across the country regularly report on social media that they have broken the Lime scooters in two, often when the plinth meets the stem.
"Safety is Lime's highest priority", the company said in a statement. "The vast majority of Lime's fleet is produced by other companies and disused Okai scooters are being replaced by newer, more advanced scooters that are considered the best in their class for safety, and we do not expect real service interruptions."
The massive move arrives several weeks after Lime – one of the nation's largest scooter companies – recognizes that this summer it has taken thousands of its scooters off the road after it has been discovered that a small number of them might have batteries with potential to burn. to fly.
These scooters were made by the mobility company Segway, which withdrew from the claim of Lime that a manufacturing error caused the scooters to become vulnerable to fire.
Some employees of Lime, riders and other affiliated persons say that they are worried that the company may not have moved fast enough to worry about scooters disintegrating.
An independent Lime contractor who recharges the scooters at night, also known as juicer, delivered copies of e-mails in which he showed that he had warned the company about the problem of scooters breaking as early as September.
The juicer, a man in his forties who & # 39; Ted & # 39; His name was not to be used for fear of retribution. He said that a few weeks after he started working for Lime for Lime in July, he began to notice cracks in the plinths and broken lime on the street. He estimated that he discovered plinth cracks in about 20 percent of the scooters he had picked up. Finally, he stressed the problem in a long Reddit post with multiple photos of broken scooters.
In an e-mail of 8 September dedicated to Lime support, Ted Lime warned of four scooters with "cracks at the bottom of the deck", which he called a "systematic problem". He recorded photo & # 39; s and identification codes for each device. Ted also asked about his payments for charging the devices.
A Lime employee responded to his e-mail, but did not speak out about the defective scooters.
"Thank you for your e-mail and our apologies for the challenge", wrote the employee, referring to a separate question about the payment. "I have submitted your payment to Finance, give four to seven days to post, the payment is shown as a" bonus. "We appreciate your patience and understanding. & # 39;
The message asked Ted to respond with another plea for safety.
"I hope the Lime team takes the issue of the crunching scooter series seriously," he wrote. "I have now dropped 3 scooters in the warehouse that were completely squashed in two, and there were four that started to crack, and they were all squatted at the same location. & # 39;
"I believe this is a design error that is beginning to show up," he added.
Ted said that Lime never responded. Lime declined to comment on his account.
A lime mechanic in California, who is responsible for the maintenance of the devices, said that employees in his warehouse that carry out daily maintenance on the scooters of the company have identified scooters that have been at risk of cracking in recent months. This employee said that managers have not followed this concern aggressively. The engineer spoke on condition of anonymity and did not want to identify the city where he works in fear of revealing his identity.
The mechanic – who said that employees monitored how long scooters remained functional after being deployed on city streets – said that cracks in the plinth could occur within days after the devices were put on the street. The mechanic provided a video in which employees performed tests in which Lime scooters break after a few small hops. Later he told the tests about the Slack message system of the company. Another mechanic noticed from a manager that the device can even click if the rider weighs no more than 145 kilos, according to the images of the discussions given to The Post.
"I would suggest that these are unsafe for public use," wrote the other technician. "It is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured … if not here, somewhere else."
Responding to a message about Slack, a manager said that she had "expressed concern" about the breaking scooters and that the mechanics had to keep testing the problematic scooters and "work on re-enforcement techniques." The manager wrote that she has photo's of similar techniques that she has "gathered from other markets."
Lime refused to comment on the mechanic's statements or the Slack exchange.
A spokesman for the Consumer Products Safety Commission said that the agency does not approve products before they reach the market. If a & # 39; substantial product danger & # 39; is reported and verified by consumers, the spokesperson said, the agency could work with a company to set up a recall.
"The pattern we see is not indicative of products that do not meet safety standards for them," said the spokesman, referring to electric scooters. "It is more that consumers have accidents due to the limited awareness of their use and lack of protective equipment and their use in crowded and scattered environments."
Since Lime launched his scooters this spring, two people died while driving on the devices and others were badly injured, according to the authorities. When the police had found a scooter, Jacoby Stoneking had already ridden before he suffered a blunt head injury in the early morning hours of September 1, the device was cut in half, although according to the police and Lime officials few other details about the accident are known . The 24-year-old man from East Dallas died the next day in a hospital.
The death of Stoneking resonated with Stephen Williams (29), a man in Dallas who said he was injured after being ridden on a bike and crammed in half when he was a city street on October 10, throwing him on the ground box first. . A week later, Williams said, his ankle, knee, back and neck were still in pain.
As he pondered his misfortune, Williams – who works at a technology company as a data analyst – recalled the details of Stoneking's accident and began to wonder if there was a pattern. He went in search of examples of broken Lime scooters, eventually logging more than 40 bodies on social media, in news reports and on Reddit, including six that he personally encountered. Williams included these figures in a comprehensive review of e-scooters given to the Texas Department of Transportation in Dallas, as well as lime officials.
His verdict: in a city that is heavily dependent on cars for personal mobility, scooters have great potential to join the city & # 39; & # 39; sewing & # 39 ;, allowing people to travel to neighboring neighborhoods without generating more traffic. But, he said, he finds the Lime Okai model too unsafe to ride on.
"I am extremely disappointed, perhaps betrayed by these devices," said Williams, who refuses to drive another Lime until the company improves the safety of the scooter. "That is disappointing for me because the usefulness of these devices is so deep."