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Ford GoBikes sit in a dock in San Francisco. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As well-funded tech companies are getting in the highly regulated scooter and bike-share business, subsidies for certain groups like low-income communities and students are emerging as the next battleground.

Why it matters: In cities like San Francisco, long-standing tensions between city officials and tech companies, namely Uber and Lyft, are back in the spotlight and could create problems for the latter group.

In San Francisco, Lyft's acquisition of bike-share operator Motivate has prompted government officials to suggest that the deep-pocketed company should subsidize a program for low-income students at San Francisco State University to rent its bikes for free, as the SF Examiner reported.

  • “It seems to me we have not gone to Lyft and said … ‘do you want to offer low income individuals at SF state a discounted rate?’” San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin told the Examiner.“I don’t think public dollars should go into that."
  • The board has previously refused to fund certain programs because it would mean taxpayer dollars going to ride-hailing companies, as the SF Examiner notes.
  • Last week, startup Lime — which recently took funding from Lyft rival Uber and inked a partnership — reportedly offered to provide free use of its bikes to the students, taking advantage of situation. However, unlike Motivate, Lime doesn't currently have a permit from the city to operate a bike-share service, so it's unclear how far this could go.
  • San Francisco is only one of several cities where Motivate operates a bike-share program, and where similar questions or backlash could emerge.

Of note: Jump, the sole other bike-share company that's secured a permit from the city to operate in San Francisco (albeit through a different program), is now owned by Uber. It wouldn't be surprising if city officials decide to apply similar pressures on the ride-hailing giant as well.

What they're saying: For its part, Motivate says that it's "committed to working with them on a solution." Lyft told Axios that government officials likely recognized that the company may want to play a role in making this service more affordable, holding off on the decision until the parties could have a discussion.

The bottom line: Companies like Uber and Lyft (and scooter startups like Lime and rival Bird) have publicly pledged to make their services accessible to underserved communities, so they could very soon be asked to put their money where their mouths are.

Go deeper

Updated 6 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Shooting at Michigan high school leaves 3 dead, 8 wounded

Police cars restrict access to Oxford High School following the shooting in Oxford, Michigan, on Tuesday. Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

A 15-year-old sophomore was arrested after a shooting at a Michigan high school that left three people dead and eight others wounded Wednesday, according to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

The latest: Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said at a briefing Tuesday night that the suspect's father had on Friday bought the 9mm Sig Sauer pistol investigators believe was used in the shooting at Oxford High School. Authorities released the names of the victims late Tuesday.

City Council member Andre Dickens wins Atlanta mayoral race

Andre Dickens during a rally at Center Stage on November 28, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

City Council member Andre Dickens won a runoff election Tuesday to become Atlanta's next mayor, soundly beating the council's president Felicia Moore.

The big picture: Dickens was just a few months ago considered to have an outside chance of replacing Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who announced in May that she wouldn't seek a second term.

UN report: Pandemic set to cost global tourism $2 trillion in 2021

A tourist in front of the Eiffel Tower on November 25, 2021 in Paris. Photo:Chesnot/Getty Images

A new United Nations report warns that global tourism will see only modest revenue gains in 2021 after last year's historic losses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: Tourism revenues in 2020 fell by more than half from the previous year — a significant blow to the global economy, according to analysis by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).