Bird Scooters Not Welcome: Boston Mayor Warns They Will Be Taken to Tow Yard

Sunday, July 22, 2018


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Bob Burke on Bird Scooter

On Friday, Bird scooters surprised city officials in Providence by popping up downtown and on the East Side. The same scooters showed up in Cambridge and Somerville, MA, but not in Boston.

Now, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is warning the electric scooter companies not to show up in Boston without permits and approval.

“They can’t just show up here, there has to be some regulation and some notification of what’s going to happen,” Walsh said Saturday according to the Boston Herald. “If they drop them off here, we’re going to pick them up off the street and they can come pick them up at the tow yard.”

Boston vs. Providence

As GoLocal reported, commuters and residents were met with an unexpected, unexplained surprise on city sidewalks Friday morning: a legion of unassuming black scooters emblazoned with “Bird.”

Residents weren’t the only ones surprised. According to Victor Morente, spokesperson for the City of Providence, the city was given no prior warning that the scooters would be arriving and is now in working with the company to establish a partnership and regulations.

Some love the new addition -- restaurateur Bob Burke with Pot au Feu posted a video featuring his ride on the scooter.

How Does It Work?

The concept is fairly simple: scooters are placed around the city in strategic locations. To use a scooter, users download the Bird app, then use an electronic pad on the scooter to unlock it using the app. Rides cost $1 plus 15 cents per minute. At the end of the trip, users park the scooter on the sidewalk and lock it using the app. The company bills the scooters as “last mile” transportation, ideal for distances that are a little too far to walk but not worth driving to.

Since the scooters are dockless, so-called “chargers” come around at night and collect them, bringing them to their homes where they are charged and brought back to the city early the next morning. According to the website, chargers are paid daily for services through the Bird app. Anyone can sign up to become a charger by completing a profile on the app.

As of Friday, at least 45 scooters were available for rent across the city of Providence.

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Launch and Pushback

The company was founded in May 2017 by Travis VanderZanden, who served previous as COO of ridesharing service Lyft, and then as Vice President of Global Driver Growth for rival Uber. Since its launch in the Santa Monica, California area, it has spread to several other cities across the country to mixed reviews.

Cities like San Francisco have issued cease-and-desist orders following complaints of scooters left in doorways, on wheelchair ramps, and in front of businesses.

In March, the Santa Monica City Council approved an emergency measure allowing scooters that “pose an immediate hazard or obstruct access” to be impounded with a $60 fee. The city did not specify if the individual riders or the company is responsible for paying impound fees.

So far, 18 cities across 10 states and the District of Columbia are Bird “nests,” with Friday’s addition of Providence, Somerville, and Cambridge bringing the total to 21 cities in 12 states.


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