All across Atlanta, Bird droppings are upon us.
As of today, the Bird system of dockless, electric, lightweight scooters is lifting off in Atlanta as a means of “last mile” trips that link commuters between transit and home—or to anywhere too far to walk, or too close to drive, to. It’s the California-based company’s first foray into the Southeast.
Initially, Atlantans will find Birds in Midtown, Tech Square, downtown, and south of Interstate 20 in West End, but locations and the sheer size of flocks will be adjusted to meet demand.
“As summer in Atlanta approaches, Bird offers a cheap, effortless alternative to sweating through a walk or bike ride,” a company rep wrote to Curbed Atlanta in an email. The city’s “rapid growth and development has presented an urgent need for additional transit options that are accessible, affordable, and reliable.”
While relatively new, the Bird system has caught on quickly and attracted widespread, pun-filled media analysis. The fledgling system first flapped in Los Angeles in September and expanded to San Diego in January, before migrating to San Francisco, Washington D.C., and most recently, Austin.
Some key facts:
Taking Bird “vehicles” is an app-based endeavor that costs $1 to start each ride, then 15 cents per minute afterwards.
Thinking of scooting home after last call? Forget it. Bird employees begin tracking them down, charging, and storing them overnight at 8 p.m. The scooters are returned to “nests” at 7 a.m. the following day.
Typically, three Birds roost at each nest. Some property owners agree to host more more, however.
Helmets (like drivers licenses) are required by law and are provided by Bird upon request. Each scooter’s scootin’ capabilities are capped at 15 mph, and they’ll fly about 15 miles per charge. Scooting about ATL for anyone under 18 years old is a no-no.
The company has pledged to remit $1 per scooter, per day, to city governments to help build permanent bike lanes, maintain infrastructure, and promote safety. Per Bird’s estimation, 40 percent of U.S. car trips are less than two miles long.
User commentary on Twitter and elsewhere has offered praise, such as, “These Bird scooters went from nonexistent to a viable form of transit in San Francisco overnight. I’m impressed.”
But the company’s launch hasn’t been without turbulence.
A deep dive by the Los Angeles Times into the Bird phenomenon in February found that opinions of the system varied wildly. Some praised the popular scooters as riotous fun and a sustainable, inexpensive option to cut out traffic.
Criticism has centered on abandoned scooters cluttering sidewalks, the system’s allure for kids too young to rent them, and the potential for scooters to be “a safety nightmare” for novices zipping down busy streets at 15 mph, per the newspaper. As Curbed Los Angeles relayed, police in Santa Monica are now allowed to impound scooters and other “shared mobility devices” that clutter sidewalks.
In Atlanta, the scooter flock isn’t the only alternate-commute system to recently take off.
Since humble beginnings around downtown in 2016, Relay Bike Share has grown to include more than 500 bikes at 60-plus stations spanning from West End to Buckhead’s PATH 400.
The rentable sky-blue bikes have become ubiquitous around Atlanta. Could chargeable scooters follow a similar flight pattern?