'Bird' ~ A New Way To Fly!
Updated: Aug 8, 2018
Hey there, Gadabout Kelly here! Did you know that there is a new ‘Bird’ showing up in cities all around the world. Have you seen one?
Bird scooters are similar to the Razor scooters that you (or your kids) may have ridden on in the past, but these scooters are decked out with a motor and a battery and can reach speeds up to 15 mph.
WHAT IS IT?
Bird is a last-mile electric vehicle sharing company dedicated to bringing affordable, environmentally-friendly transportation solutions to communities across the world. It provides a fleet of shared electric scooters that can be accessed via smartphone. Birds give people looking to take a short journey across town ~ or down that “last-mile” from the subway or bus to their destination ~ a way to do so that does not pollute the air or add to traffic.
Bird works closely with the cities in which it operates so that it is a reliable and affordable transportation option for people who live and work there. Founded in September 2017 by transportation pioneer Travis VanderZanden, Bird is headquartered in Venice, Calif., and is rapidly expanding across the country.
Bird began introducing vehicles in Los Angeles and expanded to San Diego in January 2018. In March 2018, Birds migrated north to San Francisco and San Jose, California, as well as to Washington, DC. Most recently, Bird riders in Austin, Texas began to take flight. Also of note, in its first three weeks in operation in San Francisco, Bird riders traveled more than 90,000 miles!
According to Bird Founder/CEO VanderZanden:
"We started Bird with the goal of getting people out of cars, especially for the two out of every five car trips in America that are fewer than two miles long. We are heartened that so many people share that goal, and we are committed more than ever to continue our work in expanding Birds across the country and transforming last-mile transportation.”
As part of its industry-leading 'Save Our Sidewalks Pledge' to prevent clutter in Bird cities, the company is committed to grow only when there is demand. If Birds are not ridden at least three times per day, then the company does not add additional vehicles. In addition, Bird is remitting $1 per vehicle per day to city governments so they can use this money to build more bike lanes, promote safe riding, and maintain our shared infrastructure. I love this idea!
Enough about the company, let’s talk about riding the Bird itself ~ It’s SO easy to start your first ride!
After downloading the Bird app and creating a login, you can pull up a map to see all of the nearby Bird scooters. The closer you zoom in, the more detail you will see. It will also give you all sorts of other information, like each scooters current battery charge, stats on your last ride, safety tips, etc.
When you find a Bird near you, you tap the button to unlock it. The app prompts you to snap a photo of the scooters QR code and, on your first rental, scan your drivers license. Renting a Bird costs just $1 to unlock and $.15 per minute of use.
To start the scooter, you kick start three times then push the throttle button with your thumb. Place both feet on the footboard while riding. You are instructed to ride in bike lanes when available, and to avoid pedestrians on the sidewalk. You squeeze with the right hand to accelerate and you slow down and brake with the left.
WE DID IT!
Recently, my Gadabout Guy Jason and I were out to dinner with our son Will and his friend Becca. We didn’t realize that Bird scooters had only recently ‘landed’ in Columbus, Ohio.
While dining downtown outside on the fun patio at the newly-opened BBQ restaurant, Pecan Penny’s (near Main & 4th St.), we all noticed the abundance of people on motorized scooters ~ on the sidewalk and street areas, all around the restaurant.
A guy pulled one up to the patio near where we were seated, parked it and walked by...so I asked him for the scoop. He told us about the free app and the basics of riding and we all decided to download it and give the Bird a try!
Becca was actually the first one of us that night to download the Bird app, sign up and take a spin. I took a fun video of her very 1st ride, but for some unknown reason...technology is NOT being my friend right now, and her cute scooter ride video is the only one of ours that will NOT upload here. Grrrr. (#TechGirlFail)
When I took my ride, I discovered that the scooter responds to the lightest touch. I had a few lurches in the beginning as I learned how to handle the acceleration, and I was glad to try it on an uncrowded sidewalk away from traffic (we didn’t know then that riding on sidewalks was discouraged. Ooops!). I very quickly understood the appeal of Bird. It’s fast, fun and easy to maneuver, even in a dress!
The extra wide tires provide a smooth, comfortable ride. The footboard is nice and wide as well. Will took the Bird across the street to where his car was parked to put more money in his meter…and then he took off for a little cruise around the block.
State law requires scooter riders to wear a helmet. You must be over the age of 18, have a valid drivers license and only one person may ride at a time. The evening that we first saw the Bird scooters and tried them out, none of the riders we saw around us were wearing helmets, and obviously...we didn’t have helmets because we didn’t know we would be riding that night.
I've since found out that Bird has been giving away ‘free’ helmets to active riders since February. The helmet costs $1 (to cover the cost of shipping). At last count, Bird has distributed 22,512 helmets since starting the program in January. Since Jason and I plan to try out the Bird scooters again soon, I placed an order today via the app for our free helmets.
After Jason’s first Bird ride, he was hooked!
To end your bird ride you open the app and tap the button to lock the scooter. The app shows you your ride time and cost (obviously a fraction of what a typical Uber or Lyft ride would cost for the same distance). The app reminds you that when you finish your ride and park your Bird, please don’t block public pathways and to park it near a bike rack when possible. In several cities, people have been sharing pics on Instagram of inconsiderate Bird riders, just leaving their scooters in the middle of sidewalks when done with their rides.
Hey people, that’s SO not cool!
NOT EVERYONE LOVES THE BIRD
There are currently two other popular scooter startups in addition to Bird (Lime and Spin). Many people have commended these startups for giving people a cheap and easy way to get around, while reducing their reliance on cars and easing congestion on public transit. As you might expect, not everyone is happy though…some are annoyed and say the proliferation of scooters has created crowding on city sidewalks because the vehicles don’t use docking stations like some electric bike sharing startups do. City officials in San Francisco have started issuing regulations around where the scooters can be left and how many are allowed. People are arguing that sidewalks should be for walkers, joggers and wheelchair users…not for scooters.
To help prevent ‘littering’, Bird has made a pledge to pick up all it’s vehicles nightly. In Columbus, the scooters get picked up each evening around 9:00 pm, which helps alleviate driving in the dark (or perhaps while tipsy from partying too much at the local bars). Bird sends a team of employees and independent contractors called “Chargers” to retrieve the scooters, charge them and deploy them the next day in areas where Bird predicts they will be most used.
THE BIRD IS SOCIAL!
If interested, you can follow Bird on Instagram, on Twitter at @BirdRide, and find out more information at www.bird.co. You can also check out what pics, posts and tweets other riders are sharing on social media by using the hashtag: enjoytheride.
SO, WHAT'S NEXT?
According to their website, Bird is doing its best to work closely with even more cities, to help make transportation better & more environmentally friendly. City officials who would like to partner with Bird can contact the Bird city relations team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By the end of this year, renting bikes and scooters will be a mainstream transportation option readily available to tens of millions of people in over 100 U.S. cities with the tap of a finger—and offered as part of trip-planning itineraries that include bus, rail, and ride-hailing.
I must say, I am very excited about all of these alternative transportation possibilities! I understand that there will be some 'bumps in the road’ as we all get familiar with these options and figure out the best ways to use and deal with them on our roads and pathways. I will be paying very close attention to all of this to see how it develops.
What do YOU think about these new motorized scooters? Have you tried one yet? Would you ever give one a whirl? I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts in the comments!
TIP: Love the Bird and want to make a little extra cash? Become a Bird Charger! Bird scooters are charged by gig workers who sign up to be “Chargers”. The company sends them charging equipment, and pays them between $5 and $20 to charge the scooters overnight, then place them at designated "nests" throughout the service area in the morning. Take note: charging can become competitive, with successful Chargers using vans to pick up scooters all over the city ~ making hundreds of dollars in a night!