Opinion

Published on February 9th, 2018 | by Sean Stahl

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Bird Scooters have flown the coop

A new company, known as Bird, wants to bring the ease of traveling “as the crow flies,” which means taking a direct route free of obstacles, to the world. They want to do this by deploying a multitude of rentable black electrical scooters throughout the city of Santa Monica.

 

The company’s model is similar to bikeshare or carshare programs like the Hulu bikes. Bird launched in September and Founder Travis VanderZanden said he moved his family to Santa Monica to start Bird because it is an ideal location to launch a transit company. Their scooters are dispersed throughout Downtown and anyone over 18 with a credit card can download an app on their smartphone to reserve/unlock one. Each ride costs $1 plus 15 cents per minute. When a user’s ride is done, they can lock the scooter and leave it right where they are, as long as it’s on a sidewalk.

 

Bird Scooters are a great idea that would allow people to get around at a cheap price of one dollar plus fifteen cents every minute with a decent speed of 15 mph while being carbon-free. It would also help with traffic by allowing people who need to get somewhere not too far away to hop on a scooter instead of getting into their cars. But the way that the scooter company has introduced the scooters is problematic.

 

In order to deploy these scooters around town, the company must have a license. Bird has a license for their business, but they don’t have one for their scooters. They also simply put their scooters out to the public, and when legal issues were addressed it had already been the scooters had already become too widespread, so no agreement or situation could be worked out with Santa Monica because they couldn’t just get rid of the scooters, for they were already extremely popular with over 30,000 people riding scooters at a time.

 

Also, the way people have used the scooters is an issue. The fact that it’s possible to park the thing anywhere means that it could be left in the middle of the sidewalk, where certain people may have problems getting around them, like wheelchairs. Another danger is when two people ride on one scooter, and without helmets. The company has a set of “rules” that are supposed to be followed, but because the company hasn’t worked out the scooters with the city there isn’t a penalty for breaking these rules. They include only one rider at a time, being 18 or older with a valid Driver’s License, and utilizing bike lanes and following all local traffic laws. Teenagers and below are able to register under their parent’s credit card and age, allowing them to access these scooters without consequence.

 

Even though Bird isn’t doing what it should be doing now, that doesn’t mean the people using the scooters are out of the clear. People who use the scooters should be aware of the rules set in place. There shouldn’t be two people on one scooter, people riding without helmets, and riders under 18. They should also be mindful of the reality of the road, like distracted drivers. It’s a lot easier for you to see the cars, while those in the cars will have trouble seeing you if you speed right in front of them going 15 mph.

 

I won’t pretend to know how Santa Monica’s system to deal with these kind of legal problems works, but the city took the company to court on Feb. 1. There, they should work with Bird to create a system for the scooters that keeps them in areas where pedestrians are not walking (bike lanes) and proper laws/rules that must be followed; it’s dangerous to have two people riding on one scooter, or without helmets. If Bird does not cooperate with the city, then Bird should just be shut down. Not because the scooters are a bad idea, but because they are not safe enough and may cause problems and injury.

 

Overall, the scooters are a great idea and could be one of the future ways of travel. Nothing is perfect when it is first created, and we shouldn’t be so quick to give up on these scooters, even though the way the company released  them was wrong. We should support the scooters, while making sure that they don’t get out of line, like a toddler or a little brother. Just be careful not to create a blockade with the scooters, because nobody is going to be happy if a herd of buffal- I mean scooters, blocks there way to Starbucks in the morning.

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