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A few weeks ago I walked out my front door to find, what I thought, was an abandoned electric scooter sitting smack in the middle of the sidewalk. Odd. Then, between my house and the local Starbucks I passed several more of these scooters with LARGE “Bird” logos on them. It was like it happened overnight. “$1 to ride” it has advertised on the scooter, so I downloaded the app, and to my surprise a FLOCK of Birds had covered LA. Within 24 hours I had convinced my girlfriend to Bird to date night.
Here’s the rules:
- $1 to start
- 15 cents a minute to ride
- Gotta wear a helmet
- Obey traffic laws
- Park it where it doesn’t obstruct sidewalks, roads, driveways, etc.
You can also get paid to charge a Bird overnight – between $5 and $20. The company will send “bird hunters” a charging kit. Hunters are given the locations of “nests” where charged Birds are dropped off in the morning.
In 2017, Travis VanderZanden, a former Uber and Lyft executive launched Bird – a shared, motorized scooter company that if you’ve encountered, you either love or hate with deep fervor. I, personally, love to ride them, but find others on them annoying as all hell. Hypocrisy at its best. Regardless…VanderZanden, through several rounds of financing, and attracting the likes of Ashton Kutcher, has found himself at the helm of a company currently valued at $2Billion.
The influence of Uber is very clear, and the interface feels very similar. It uses your location to show you the closest Birds, informing you of their charge level as well. You add in your credit card info, scan the barcode of the Bird when you arrive to unlock it, and after 3 quick pushes, you’re off. When you’re done, put the kickstand down, lock it, and take a quick pic of it to show it’s off the sidewalk, etc. Credit card billed.
The first week I had the app I probably Bird’d half a dozen times to meet up with people for coffee, lunch, etc. Using them in a bike lane is super easy, and surprisingly cars respected me when in them. However…when no bike lane is present – it’s sketch af, and admittedly I revert to the sidewalk for safety.
Who’s ready for date night? • And just to be safe. @lil_henstridge Bring band-aids and something to make an impromptu sling out of. And Some reflective tape. Smelling salts. Waterproof whistle. And some laxatives ( they make you relax, right?) • #datenight #goals #scooters #donthitme #ishouldhaveahelmet #safety #kisses #fromthe #missus
As you can see, my hypocrisy leaves me very conflicted. Birds have taken over LA, and I’ve nearly been hit several times by kids recklessly steering them. Users whiz down streets, flocks ride together clogging up traffic, and irresponsible users ditch them on sidewalks, people vandalize them, etc.
But they are so fun and convenient to use, and Bird knows that. And they’re launching in more and more cities.
Uber lobbying style.
INC has a great article that goes into more detail, but the long and short of it is VanderZanden learned an immense amount of knowledge while at Uber and Lyft, one key factor being the importance of legislation protecting the expansion of ride-sharing.
The lessons learned there have been employed at Bird as well – hire lobbyist, find loopholes, bombard city council with strong tactics to get legislation in place before a ban can be pushed/orchestrated by angry citizens.
Case in point…as noted in the INC article
In California, Bird’s lobbyist approached Assemblyman Heath Flora this spring to sponsor a bill, AB2989, which would make it legal to drive e-scooters on the sidewalk when there isn’t a bike lane available, according to Lucas Webster, a Flora aide.
So far, the lobbying push has worked in most areas except Beverly Hills. Their city council just put into place a ban on shared motorized scooters and the like. No ban on personally owned ones, but rather on those participating in a shared capacity.
If Uber and Lyft are any indication of how this will go for Bird and other e-scooter companies, Beverly Hills will be the exception, not the rule.