A flock of 50 Bird dockless electric scooters that arrived at the Newport Beach Peninsula last weekend without a permit caused lots of complaints and were promptly banned by the city.
The virally popular dockless scooters that rent at $1, plus $.15 per minute, are the hottest transportation trend in 2018. Although electric scooter riders are supposed to be 18 years old, have a California driver’s license, and wear their own helmets, the bike rental is by cell phone app, and there is virtually no way to prevent underage or reckless riders.
Newport Beach would have been Bird’s 18th location, but cities are cracking down over nuisance and safety concerns, with San Francisco temporarily banning 1,800 scooters until their sponsoring companies agree to make sure riders stay in bike lanes, wear helmets, and don’t just leave the bikes sprawled across sidewalks.
But without applying for a permit or even notifying the city, Bird started advertising though Twitter on Saturday to offer residents and visitors the opportunity to “skip traffic and #enjoytheride this weekend” in Newport. The Bird mobile app showed at least 38 scooters available for rent on Monday morning, according to the Daily Pilot.
The Pilot reported that the city received numerous complaints, especially from businesses for the scooters blocking pedestrian flows after being “Bird-dropped” on the sidewalk when users reached their destinations.
Bird does deploy gig-working “Bird Hunters” that keep track of scooter locations for recharging. But the work is usually done at night by gig-working teens, and during the daytime there are few Bird staff exercising local control of the scooter use.
Assistant City Attorney Michael told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday: “We sent Bird a demand to remove all of their scooters from the city by midnight yesterday; otherwise they faced the possibility of criminal prosecution and/or administrative citation.”
Founder Travis VanderZanden entered the sharing business after his on-demand car wash company Cherry was acquired by Lyft in 2013, and he became the company’s COO. He later jumped to Uber as its vice president of growth through September 2016. He first launched Bird in May 2017.
The Financial Times reported on June 28 that the venture capitalist-dominated Bird board had raised another $300 million in its fourth round of financing at the stunning valuation after of $1.7 billion after just 13 months in business.
Given Bird demand and the financial capability of the company, the Birds will migrate back to Newport and other cities after negotiating the proper permits and user compliance rules.