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Lime will suspend its operations in South Korea, citing a “chaotic scooter environment” lacking regulatory oversight.

At the end of the month, Lime will temporarily shut down its operations in several South Korean cities. The micromobility company says that regulatory failings, including the lack of a request-for-proposal (RFP) process, have led to operators with uncontrolled fleet sizes sowing chaos.

“[RFP processes] allow cities to take leadership (and ownership) of the chaotic scooter environment in order to improve parking, ensure safety and create a market that works for their citizens,” a Lime spokesperson told TechCrunch, before adding that Paris is a perfect example of a city with a functioning scooter market. 

“We believe South Korea would benefit from moving to RFP systems that select a few outstanding operators in each city to deliver the best possible micromobility programs.”

Specifically, Lime believes that there are serious issues around rider compliance, parking, and congestion.

Lime isn’t the first micromobility operator to pull out of South Korea in recent months. Wind Mobility and Gcooter have both bowed out from South Korea following new regulations. 

Specifically, the country’s revised Road Traffic Act (which took effect in May last year) mandated that e-scooter riders should be at least 16 years old, have a valid driver’s licence, and wear a helmet. The law also states that e-scooters must use bike paths and parking in the designated parking bays. Failure to park an e-scooter correctly will net riders a 40,000 KRW (around $30.89) towing fee.

As a result, Lime says that the new rules have caused a drop in ridership. At one point, Lime operated around 22,000 vehicles in South Korea, according to the company spokesperson after launching operations in October 2019. However, the company didn’t say when it would return to South Korea but did say:

“We’re encouraged by policies put forward by the Main Government and the Mayor of Seoul Metropolitan City to invest in shared mobility infrastructure, and we look forward to being a long-term partner to Korean cities. As the Korean e-scooter market continues to develop, we hope to return with our newest hardware so riders can enjoy the best possible program.”

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