Bird App: New Startup Bird Scooters Just Launched in LA
Where, How, and Why Did Bird scooters Start?
And why's this damn thing on my lawn?
These are questions you might be wondering. The Bird app started in Los Angeles and Bird was the first electric scooter sharing company in the world. Let me tell you the story of how it happened.
Imagine it's September 2017 in Santa Monica. You're walking to work, you say hi to your favorite celebrity along the way as you sip your morning Mint Mojito coffee from Philz. Then you realize that a bunch of black electric scooters magically arrived overnight. That's what happened where I lived and worked, in Santa Monica. Minus the celebrity of course, although Arnold does bike past my work sometimes.
That day in September I noticed an abundance of electric scooters parked docklessly around the city and couldn't figure out what they were. The scooters didn't even have Bird logos on them. Thinking about it today, I now realize that it was actually Bird in it's infancy, just a few days after launching.
On that first day that I saw them, there weren't as many as there are today but they still did catch my eye. I remember there was a couple of instances that stood out to me. The first instance was while I was out on my lunch break. I was walking to get some boba near the 3rd Street Promenade when a couple of people riding black electric scooters whizzed past me on the sidewalk. The moment was only a couple seconds long but stood out to me because the riders were laughing and riding the scooters like it was their first time, and because there were 2 people riding together on 1 scooter, which was funny to see.
Fast forward to that same day, about 5 hours later, I wrapped up work for the day, grabbed my stuff, walked down the stairs and exited the doors to the street...and there I saw it. Another black electric scooter. This is the picture I took that day:
But I noticed that the scooter was was just kind of...left there alone. And while I stood there and waited for my gf to pick me up, I got more and more curious because no one was watching it. Remember, this was before they even had the Bird logos on them, and I didn't want to approach what appeared to be someone's private property.
I stared at it and wondered if someone is just grabbing a to go from the restaurant next door, will they be back out in a second? Nope, no one came for it. I even wondered if it's a new type of vehicle-sharing app or something but decided no way because it wasn't parked in a "station" with other scooters. I was used to seeing the neon green Breeze Bikes (Hulu Bikes) around the city. You lock and unlock the hulu bikes only from specialized bike racks installed in the sidewalk.
Santa Monica didn't have Lime Bikes back in Sept '17 (we do now) so I wasn't used to seeing dockless vehicles parked around the city. I later learned that dockless bike sharing has been a thing for quite a while now. But on that day that Bird first launched, not knowing what it was, it just looked like someone rode up, parked their scooter, and walked away. No locks, nothing.
Don't keep paying for Bird/Lime, buy your own scooter!
I couldn't figure out why someone just left their scooter there on the sidewalk. I must have stared at it for a while. I even daydreamed about joy riding it and wondered if it's one of those trick TV shows that provoke you take something while they record every moment of it. But before I got a chance to get in for a closer inspection my gf pulled up, I hopped in, and we drove off. I mentioned the scooter to her and we discussed it for a brief moment but I quickly forgot about it.
The thought of the scooter did linger in the back of my mind though. I was left very curious. I wanted to know why someone abandoned their scooter. Did they have an emergency and didn't have time to grab it?
I was left curious until the next day
As I was headed home again after work the next day, I saw them again. 4 black electric scooters parked along the sidewalk.
I decided to walk up and inspect them further and sure enough, my day was made. I found out that the scooters are indeed part of a scooter sharing app called Bird. It was amazing to see that a new type of dockless, eco-friendly alternate transportation system was launching right before my eyes, in my very own neighborhood.
Boom - my mind was (and still is) - blown!
That's actually why I decided to write this blog post. The night that I figured out what's going on I literally felt dizzy and was overcome with a feeling that I need to write about this new app immediately. I searched google and couldn't find anything about the Bird app so I figured they're going for a beta/stealth launch. I said forget it, I want to be the one to break the news. I pulled up my laptop and started typing furiously and went out late at night to take pictures. I figured I'm not the only person who wants to learn more about it.
Okay, so What's Bird?
Bird is a lot of things, and people define it however they want. It's peer-to-peer, it's an electric vehicle, it's ride-sharing, it's an elegant solution to the bane of all our existence: traffic. It's like an electric Uber scooter. It's basically an easy and fun way to get around town. It's title on the app store (as of 2018) is "Bird - Enjoy The Ride" by Bird Rides, Inc. The company is founded by Uber's ex-VP of Driver Growth, Travis VanderZanden.
Bird Scooter Instructions
I'm sure you know how to ride a Bird or Lime by now. But when I published this article last year, their app was so new that it had been made available on the app store only 2 days earlier. And back then, there was literally no info about them online. They didn't have anything posted on their social media. And their website was pretty much completely bare. It's like they were trying to keep it on the down low...hmm I wonder why. Maybe it's because they were worried that a low barrier to entry would create lots of competitors.
The following screenshots are from the very first version of the Bird app.
How to use Bird
Bird App Cost: As of 2018, Bird costs ($1.00 per ride) + ($0.15 per minute), so at least $1.15 per ride. It comes out to ABOUT $5 per 30 minutes.
2. Open the App
3. Find a Bird
5. Push to Go!
To get going, click the "Unlock" button on your phone and wait for the audible beep from the scooter. The beep means you're good to go.
Then pull the kickstand back in and pedal/push the scooter manually with your leg once to get it rolling and hit the accelerator which is the button located near your right thumb.
6. Ride Smart and Be Very Safe
Only one rider per Bird is permitted
You must wear a helmet while riding
You must be 18 or older, with a valid Drivers License
Ride in Bike Lanes; on the street close to the right curb - don’t ride on sidewalks
Before riding, do a safety check on the Bird; from the grips and brakes to the wheels
Follow all local traffic laws including stop signs
7. End your ride
Once you reach your destination, click the "Lock" and "End Ride" buttons in the app, wait for the beep from the scooter, and then leave the scooter on a sidewalk, out of the way of pedestrians and driveways.
Easy to use, Convenient, and fun! :)
The best part about it is how you can basically park it anywhere. Once you're finished, you park it anywhere you want, as long as it's on a public street and not in the way of anything. This is the part that I find the coolest. There are no stations that you have to pick them up and drop them off at. And the people who charge the Birds pick them up at night from wherever you dropped them off!
Bird Scooter Review
I took a ride on one of the scooters for about 15 blocks. I loved it. It's quick. It takes a few mins to get use to depending on your experience. The acceleration is a little jerky when you let on and off the accelerator, it's not smooth. You'll have to ride it to see what I mean. In terms of cost, it's ($1) per ride + ($0.15/minute) as of 2018. So about $5 per 30 minutes. The few dollars riding these around everyday can add up fast, just like a starbucks drink. In comparison to the Breeze/Hulu bikes, the bikes are $25/month or $7/month for students, and it requires exercise (a good thing). The Bird app is fast, extremely user friendly, and similar to the Uber app. Overall a pleasant experience. I feel lucky to have been one of the first people in the world to experience this new tech.
Here's some pictures I took around town of the Birds only a few days after they first launched, before they even put Bird logos on the side.
Please do not contact me with inquiries about Bird. You can contact Bird through their website.