Black Electric Scooters: Vehicle Sharing Startup "Bird" Launches in SoCal
This is the first ARTICLE as part of our new HOME BASE Series, in which we share news & stories from LA
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You might've seen them parked around Santa Monica. Or people riding them around Venice and Marina del Ray. Some have even been spotted in Culver City. Now they're expanding to San Diego.
You might be wondering "what are those black electric Bird scooters?"
I wondered the same thing too. Yesterday, I started noticing an abundance of black electric scooters around Santa Monica. There was a couple instances in particular that stood out to me.
The first instance was during lunch, while walking to get some boba near the 3rd Street Promenade. A couple of people riding black electric scooters whizzed right past me. The moment was only a few seconds long but stood out in my mind because they 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 about 5 hours later, I wrap up work for the day, grab my stuff, walk down the stairs, and exit the doors to the street. And there I see it. Another black electric scooter.
But this scooter was alone
And while standing there waiting for my gf to pick me up, I got more and more curious because no one was standing by it and no one seemed to have been watching it.
I stare at the scooter and wonder 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 said no way because it's not parked in a "station" with other scooters. With the neon green Breeze Bike Share (Hulu Bikes), you lock and unlock the bike from specific locations with specialized bike racks.
This black electric scooter was just left there by itself at the edge of the sidewalk. Someone seemed to have just scooted up, parked it, kicked out the kickstand, and walked away. No locks, nothing.
I couldn't figure out why. Why would someone just leave their scooter there and walk away, do they want it to get stolen?
I must have stared at it for a good 10 seconds. I even daydreamed about joy riding it and wondered if it's one of those trick TV shows that try to provoke you take something, while they record every moment of it.
But nope, 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 quickly forgot about it.
The thought of the scooter did linger in the back of my mind though. I was left so curious. I wanted to know why someone abandoned their scooter on the sidewalk. 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 today, 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 it is indeed part of a scooter sharing app, a new product from an electric vehicle sharing startup in Venice called Bird. A new type of dockless short distance eco-friendly gps-tracked alternate transportation. Boom - mind blown.
What is Bird?
It's an app enabled electric vehicle. Like an electric Uber scooter. It's title on the app store currently is "Bird - Enjoy The Ride" by Bird Rides, Inc. The company is founded by Uber's ex-VP of Driver Growth, Travis VanderZanden.
The app is so new that it was just made available on the app store only 2 days ago. And as of today (9/13/17), there's not much info about them online. They don't have anything posted on their instagram, facebook, or twitter. And their website is still pretty bare. I actually originally decided to write this blog post because I figured I'm not the only one that wants to learn more about this new startup.
Update Oct. 28: Things seem to be picking up with Bird. Judging by the information on their website's hiring page, they're considering expanding into 13 more cities across the nation. Denver, Atlanta, Washington DC, Dallas, Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Boston, New York City, and Chicago.
So how does the Bird Scooter App work? Simple!
2. Open the App
3. Find a Bird
4. Add money
Use promo code LWAEL or this link for a free ride
Cost: As of Oct. 2017, 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.
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. Be 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...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.
Update - Bird Scooter Review: I took a ride on one of the scooters for about 15 blocks. I loved it. It's quick and fun. 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 10/21/17. So about $5/30 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 for students, and requires exercise. The Bird app is fast, extremely user friendly, and similar to the Uber app. Overall a pleasant experience. I feel lucky to have these in Santa Monica.
Here's some pictures I've taken around town of the Birds:
Update 12/11/2017: A criminal complaint has been filed against the Bird company by the Attorney for the City of Santa Monica. Apparently Bird never applied for a business license. Bold move, let's see how it plays out. "The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office has filed a criminal complaint against Bird Rides, Inc. (“Bird”), a corporation that offers motorized scooters for rent in Santa Monica. The complaint alleges that Bird has repeatedly violated local laws by operating without a business license. Bird scooters are often found in the public right of way, including on sidewalks. The company has repeatedly refused to comply with City citations." Click here to read the press release.
Update 12/21/2017: We are not affiliated with the Bird scooter company. Please do not contact us with inquiries about Bird. You can contact Bird through their website.
Disclosure: This article contains promo codes that give us free Bird ride credit when used