Update, Sept. 13, 4:15 p.m. — A City of Santa Cruz press release on Thursday afternoon says that a cease-and-desist letter has been sent to Bird, giving the electric scooter startup “until midnight September 13, 2018, to remove all of their scooters from all public sidewalks and/or rights-of-way in the City.” The move, the statement continues, follows steps taken in San Diego, Boston, Nashville and Fresno to issue cease-and-desist letters, restrict scooter use or ban the devices.
“Bird’s approach is dismissive of the hundreds of businesses in Santa Cruz who play by the rules, receive proper permits and licenses, and operate legally, City Manager Martin Bernal says in the statement. Though he adds that Santa Cruz “would have welcomed a preliminary conversation with Bird,” it is not clear how the city will approach the issue moving forward.
Original story: As of Thursday, Santa Cruz residents have a new type of on-demand transportation available with a few clicks of a smartphone—though not many locals knew it was coming.
Black and white, two-wheeled electric scooters sporting the logo of Santa Monica transportation startup Bird were neatly lined up Thursday morning in small clusters around midtown and near downtown Santa Cruz. At least three dozen scooters spread from the Westside to Seabright appeared ready to ride on the Bird mobile app as of late morning on Thursday.
The model of insta-renting electric gadgets to get from Point A to Point B will be familiar to local residents who have used the bright orange, Uber-owned Jump bikes available in town.
Bird hasnt contacted anyone at the city about their program, which is apparently consistent with their business model, City Spokesperson Eileen Cross told GT in an e-mail.
The Bird app works by allowing users to upload a credit card, use a map to locate nearby scooters, then take a picture of a code on the device to ride for $1, plus $.20 per minute.
Taking Flight A screenshot of scooters available in Santa Cruz on the Bird app, as of Thursday, Sept. 13.
Startup database Crunchbase says Bird has raised some $415 million from venture capitalists to bring its on-demand scooters to the masses, often attracting controversy about safety and neighborhood nuisances in the process. Bird declined to answer questions on Thursday morning about how many of the scooters will be on the street in Santa Cruz, or whether the company reached out to any local officials or businesses in advance of the launch.
“Santa Cruz is a forward-thinking city that shares Bird’s vision of getting cars off the road to reduce traffic and carbon emissions,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to GT. “We are thrilled to bring our affordable, environmentally friendly last-mile transportation option here, and we hope to work closely with city leaders so that we can help the entire community more easily get around town.”
Like ridesharing providers Uber and Lyft before them, e-scooter companies are an example of the often-thorny relationship between fast-moving startups and local governments. The friction is especially obvious with transportation in California, where many environmental and social groups are already campaigning for more alternatives to notoriously car-centric development sprawl.
Where trouble tends to arise with e-scooters in particular is the devices 20-mile-an-hour-plus speeds, sometimes making it dicey to share bike lanes or sidewalks, and their providers reluctance to police users. In addition to a reputation for asking cities for forgiveness rather than permission to launch their scooter-sharing systems, Bird and competitors like Uber-backed Lime have argued that they shouldnt be responsible for users who ride recklessly or leave devices in the public right of way. Cities like San Jose, meanwhile, have argued that they already dont have enough cops for regular traffic stops, let alone scooter-related incidents.
New snag for electric scooters in Birmingham
In June, Santa Cruz Transportation Planner Claire Fliesler told GT that the city had no plans to pursue a scooter system, since planners were focused on building out bike sharing. Still, she said, local officials have been following the saga of e-scooters in neighboring cities.
San Francisco took the harshest approach to scooters released to the public with little or no warning to the city, banning the devices after concerns about mowing down pedestrians and sloppy parking that obstructed sidewalks. In late August, the city began allowing licensed operators back on the road, though they notably barred Bird, Lime and several other competitors from the newly legal industry.
Lauren Hepler is the digital editor of Good Times and a reporter covering cities, jobs and tech — plus the occasional sports or agriculture story required of all Ohio natives. She has contributed to the New York Times, the Guardian, the BBC and Slate. Lauren was previously on staff at the Silicon Valley Business Journal and is a graduate of UC Berkeleys Graduate School of Journalism.
Bird is still operating without a business license in Columbia. Adam Kruse, ADA Coordinator for Columbias Disabilities Commission, said the city is currently negotiating terms with Bird, and theyre going to discuss a minimum clearance rule on sidewalks. He said they will make sure the word gets out to users and that there will be consequences if it doesnt.
More personal transportation options are better, but just throwing a commercial venture onto city streets seems both rude and kinds like littering.
At $12 an hour, the scooters are far more expensive than Jump Bikes. They also seem (based on experience of nearby cities) to be much more of a sidewalk-clutter problem than the Jump Bikes.
Given that Bird did not work with the City on placing the scooters, I think that they can be charged with littering for leaving them on the public right of way
Is Santa Cruz really a forward thinking city when it comes to transportation when they want to build a 6 story garage with a library in it on the only open space in downtown? As well as consistently push for needing more parking spaces for vehicles? I’m not about these scooters, but I am about bikes. Santa Cruz is decades behind its infrastructure plan, and is living in the past by building parking lots and parking spaces for vehicles that cost way too much money. They keep wanting to invite people to drive their cars here, with no where for them to go because the streets are too crowded. Maybe the city should spend their time thinking about how to get the housing situation figured out for the working class that keeps the city running and less worried about catering to the needs of Silicon Valley scum.
Though many in the community like the scooters, some in the disabled community do not. The Bird scooters do not have a designated area to park them, so some users leave them scattered on the sidewalks. This is frustrating people like Jamie Leonard who use their wheelchairs on the sidewalks.
I don’t mind the scooters for now. We’ll see how they’re handled by riders. However, the blatant disregard for citizens and the community is unacceptable. I’d like to see the city impound the scooters until an agreement is reached whereby Bird covers and expenses the city may incur and effectively pays a fair tax for use of the local infrastructure.
Is there a racial divide with KCs new mode of transportation?
WCPO transportation reporter and Pat LaFleur and Consumer John Reporter John Matarese compare the downtown scooter services.
A Bird rental scooter on Vine Street, the morning dozens popped up around Over-the-Rhine and Downtown, July 26, 2018. (Pat LaFleur/WCPO)
The city suddenly has so many transit options: The streetcar, Red Bikes, buses, and as of mid-September not one, but two electric scooter services.
The neon-green Lime scooters compete with the black-and-white Bird scooters that already are a common sight, since they first appeared in late July.
"I see people coming from the Clifton area even, so it's bringing people from up in the Clifton area to downtown, back to this area, so it's great," Lubowski said.
But on Wednesday, Cambridge officials invited the representatives from scooter companies Bird and Lime to a hearing to discuss a pilot program for the scooters, which are already being used in several other cities.
The app shows you where all the available scooters are located at that moment; there's not a rack or storage hub.
Sixty-nine electric scooters were confiscated off the streets of Cambridge after the LA-Based Bird company brought them to Cambridge and Somerville in July to start a new scooter sharing service.
Once you find one nearby, you use the app to take a picture of the scooter's QR code, which unlocks the scooter and bills your credit card.
If you wish to stop at a business, you can temporarily lock it (so no one else can take it), then jump on again. When you are done for the day, you simply close out on the app.
"It's going to be less than $10 for an hour worth of riding," LaFleur said. "Just riding around Downtown, and from what I've seen, most people only use them for 10 or 15 minutes, because they are not designed to get very far."
As for speed, both brands go 15 miles per hour, so don't expect to win a race in either one. (Besides, you shouldn't try to race a scooter on city streets.)
City of Norman asks for scooters to be removed
And you are supposed to ride them in the street, though we found several riders zooming in and out of pedestrians on city sidewalks.
To better your chance of finding one near you, LaFleur says your best bet is to have both apps, then use the scooter that is closest.
Norman gives scooter company operating without permit until 10 p.m. Wednesday to remove scooters
If you wonder how they are charged, employees called "Lime Juicers" and "Bird Hunters" or "Bird Gatherers" (different cities use different terms) gather them up, take them home, and charge them every night around 9 p.m.
And yes, if you'd like a little extra cash, you can earn $20 to $50 a night as a charger. Learn more through Bird and Lime's websites, so you don't waste your money.
The city of Norman asks Bird company to voluntarily remove scooters
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