Electric scooter company Bird comes to DC, challenges competitors to be responsible

WASHINGTON — D.C.’s sidewalks are getting crowded with dockless bikes and electric scooters, and the newest entry is challenging the competition to keep the city’s sidewalks from getting cluttered.

Bird rolls out its electric scooters as part of D.C.’s seven-month dockless bike demonstration pilot this week. It introduced its scooters over the weekend in San Francisco and San Jose.

In California, Bird scooters are also on the streets in Santa Monica, Venice, the UCLA campus, Los Angeles and San Diego.

As part of its recent expansion, Bird is challenging other scooter- and bike-sharing companies to sign its “Save Our Sidewalks” pledge, or S.O.S., to prevent American cities from suffering what it calls the same fate of many Chinese cities, where out-of-control vehicle deployment has led to piles of abandoned and broken bicycles overrunning sidewalks and public areas.

“Although we are competitors, we all share a passion for the transformation that we are all working to bring about,” Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden said in a letter to the CEOs of LimeBike, Ofo, Mobike and Jump.

“But as an industry of innovators, we need to lead not just on technology, but on social responsibility.”

Bird’s S.O.S. pledge includes picking up scooters for inspection, maintenance and repairs every night; increasing the supply of scooters on the street only if those already deployed are being used at least three times a day; remitting $1 per vehicle per day to city governments for building more bike lanes; and promoting safe riding.

Bird says since its founding last September, its riders have taken more than a half-million rides.

LimeBike brought its electric scooters, called Lime-S, to D.C. earlier this month. In February, Waybots hit D.C. streets with what it called a “soft launch” of its electric scooters.

The District’s demonstration project will determine if dockless bike sharing — and now scooter sharing —will be allowed to remain in D.C., and determine how those businesses would be required to operate.

D.C. has said it generally favors the dockless program so far, according to the District Department of Transportation, even though dozens of bikes have been stolen and there are complaints about the bikes being left in the middle of sidewalks or other public spaces.

DDOT is soliciting public input via email on the dockless bike-share experiment. Send emails to dockless.bikeshare@dc.gov.

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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