Fresno on Sunday became the latest city to temporarily boot unlicensed Bird dockless electric scooter rentals from its streets.
The City of Fresno issued a cease-and-desist letter three weeks after Bird Rides, Inc. on August 16 started building unlicensed rental nests in several locations across the Central Valley’s biggest city.
According to the Fresno Bee, Bird filled out an on-line city application on August 14 expressing interest in operating a dockless scooter rentals business in Fresno. Bird claims on its website under “Working With Cities” that the company partners “with cities to help make transportation better & more environmentally friendly.”
But 2 days later, Bird started dropping off groups of scooters in high visibility areas before the local Business Tax Office had time to evaluate its application and review concerns about potential transportation liability, right-of-way and littering issues.
Fresno Assistant City Manager Jim Schaad wrote a letter to Bird on August 29 stating that Bird did not first gain proper city permission and licensing. Schaad warned, “If you want to use the public right-of-way, you have to operate in the public interest.”
Bird and the city are believed to have been in talks for the next 9 days, but the City of Fresno issued a formal cease-and-desist letter effective September 9 for Bird to remove all its scooters until an operating policy and business agreement can be reached with the city.
Fresno’s demand letter blamed Bird for using similar “forgiveness instead of permission” tactics in the “virtually every city” the company attempted to establish electric scooter rentals. Fresno emphasized that San Diego, Boston, Nashville, and Kansas City have issued similar issued similar cease and desist letters, placed restrictions on scooter use, or banned the rentals entirely.
Since Bird scooters hit the streets of Fresno 7 weeks ago, the city claims it has recorded numerous complaints regarding Americans with Disability Act violations; riders failing to use safety helmets; people riding on sidewalks in violation of state law; users dumping scooters on private lawns; and scooters blocking sidewalks and entryways.
The City of Fresno also reported experiencing the same type of public backlash that other cities, including social media posts regarding vandalism of rental scooters.
Fresno’s Mayor Lee Brand emphasized that not issuing a cease and desist order against Bird would have been unfair to the thousands of Fresno businesses that play by the established rules that require proper permits and licenses to operate in the city.
Brand stated that the city is still willing to work with Bird and has a meeting with the company scheduled for next week: “We want to be business friendly – but friendliness goes both ways. We will continue to embrace different forms of transportation, but not at the expense of safety or public process.”