California cities started a process of licensing dockless electric scooter rentals to operate on city roads legally last week.
With San Francisco and Santa Monica moving to license electric scooter rentals after temporarily banning the activity and confiscating the equipment, Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden seems to have proved once again that for tech entrepreneurs: “It is easier to get forgiveness than permission.”
Breitbart News noted recently that after founding the rental business in May 2017 and initially deploying dockless e-scooters in dozens of cities without permits or warning local officials, former Lyft executive VanderZanden had raised over $400 million in venture capital and built Bird into an enterprise valued at $2 billion, according to Inc. Magazine.
Although all scooter rentals supposedly require riders to be 18 years old, have a California driver’s license, and wear their own helmets, there is no way to manage riders who reserve scooters by mobile apps that charge $1, plus $.15 per minute for use.
Many residents view e-scooters as a nuisance and potentially dangerous to pedestrians when driven on sidewalks. According to the Los Angeles Times, vandalism against rental scooters is now a competition on social media, with posts showing L.A. residents throwing them in the ocean, dropping them off buildings, and setting them on fire.
Cities like San Francisco, Santa Monica, and Newport Beach first tried banning the scooter rentals. But new companies kept popping up to put similar dockless scooter rentals on the streets of 33 major U.S. cities and three locations in Europe. As a result, Tech Crunch reported, Santa Monica and San Francisco were moving to main-stream dockless electric scooter rental qualifications and licensing.
San Francisco announced on August 29 that the city shad elected local startups Scoot Networks and Skip to operate fleets of 625 dockless electric scooters under licenses with a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency pilot program beginning October 15, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The total number of scooters on streets will expand to 2,500 with the licensing of three additional scooter vendors this year.
TechCrunch reported the same day that the Santa Monica had officially licensed Bird, Lime, Lyft and Uber’s JUMP Bikes to begin a 16-month scooter and bike-share pilot program on September 17. Under the terms of the awards, Bird and Lime will be allowed 750 scooters each, while Lyft and JUMP would be allowed 250 scooters and 500 bicycles each.
With Santa Monica as its headquarters, Bird CEO VanderZanden released a statement: “We have a shared mission of reducing congestion and emissions, and look forward to continuing partnering with the City and to serve our community. Bird is committed to providing Santa Monica residents and visitors the accessible, equitable, and responsible transportation option that they deserve.”