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Bird scooters removed from Newport Beach under threat of criminal prosecution

VENICE, CA - July 25, 2018 Bird electric scooters sit discarded in an alleyway near the Venice Beach
Bird electric scooters in an alleyway near the Venice Beach Boardwalk. Over the weekend, the company was asked to remove its scooters from the Balboa Peninsula.
(Gabriel S. Scarlett / Los Angeles Times)
Daily Pilot

Newport Beach has clipped Bird’s wings.

The popular motorized scooter-sharing start-up dropped at least 50 of its two-wheeled vehicles on the Balboa Peninsula over the weekend. But according to the city, the company did so without giving notice or getting a permit, and residents promptly complained about the dockless electric scooters being left on the sidewalk — one of Bird’s key features is that riders can pick up and leave the scooters anywhere.

“We sent Bird a demand to remove all of their scooters from the city by midnight yesterday; otherwise they faced the possibility of criminal prosecution and/or administrative citation,” Assistant City Atty. Michael Torres said Tuesday. “As of today, my understanding is that most, if not all, of the scooters have been removed from the city’s property.”

On Saturday, Bird’s Twitter account encouraged people to “skip traffic and #enjoytheride this weekend” in Newport. On Monday, the company’s mobile app showed the Balboa Peninsula packed with available Birds.

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“In partnership with Newport Beach, we have agreed to remove all Birds from the city while we work to define a framework for operation that works for everyone,” a statement from Bird said Tuesday evening. “We are in close communication with local officials and we look forward to continuing those productive conversations so we can get back to helping people more easily get around Newport Beach.”

Bird riders find and unlock available scooters by using the app. Bird charges $1 to rent a scooter, plus 15 cents per minute of use. The scooters reach top speed of 15 mph and can go 15 miles on a charge.

Supporters say scooter sharing is convenient, environmentally friendly and fun. Critics say riders are reckless, often driving and parking on sidewalks, riding tandem and not wearing helmets, although the company discourages such behavior and will mail riders free helmets upon request.

A similar service recently approached Newport Beach about coming to town, according to a city statement. Staff is reviewing the request from the company, which the city did not identify.

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Competitors for Venice-based Bird include Lime and Spin; companies such as Jump Bikes and Motivate provide a similar service with electric bicycles.

Newport officials are expected to discuss such services at the Aug. 14 City Council meeting.

Companies that rent out electric scooters and bikes have found popularity and detractors around the country in recent months as cities struggle to develop policies.

Santa Monica approved a pilot program, set to launch in September, requiring the companies to pay higher fees, develop additional safety education, share real-time data and abide by a “dynamic cap” on the number of devices each company can deploy.

In Los Angeles, a city councilman Tuesday proposed banning electric scooters in town until the city begins issuing permits to the companies providing them.

Huntington Beach recently placed a four-month moratorium on bike and scooter services to discuss how other cities are regulating them.

Davis writes for the Daily Pilot.


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