Featured photo: A Bird scooter, ready to roll. (Photo courtesy of Bird)

Scooters have returned to Greensboro.

After the city’s former scooter operator, Blue Duck, unexpectedly flew away, Bird Rides Inc. scooters have flocked to the city to roost.

Per city council’s Dec. 19 decision, Bird is now the sole operator of electric scooters and bikes for rent within the city limits.

Although Bird filed for bankruptcy at the end of December, the city is still going forward with the partnership. The company, which was once valued at $2.5 billion by investors, is now worth around $1 million.

Transportation Director Hanna Cockburn told TCB that the city is “confident” in Bird’s “commitment to launch the services as planned in Greensboro.”

However, city staff will be “closely monitoring the program to ensure we receive the level and quality of services we expect,” Cockburn wrote.

Bird scooters can already be seen around town, Senior Communications Specialist Amanda Lehmert told TCB.

On Saturday afternoon, Bird will be offering free test rides UNC-Greensboro’s Spartapalooza. The university’s annual student carnival will be held in the parking lot behind Jefferson Suites, 1501 Spring Garden St. The city’s request for proposals included input from staff at UNCG.

While the cost of a ride depends on each city, there’s typically a $1 unlocking fee followed by 15 cents per minute used. A 20-minute trip could cost a rider about $4.

Right now, the scooters are located downtown and on UNCG’s campus. 

Per city rules, riders must stay on city streets with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. Like vehicles, they must follow all traffic laws, for example stopping at traffic lights and stop signs. They can use bike lanes, but can’t ride on sidewalks or in parking decks.

Electric scooters and other micromobility devices are popular on college campuses, and their popularity grew during the pandemic. But limited or nonexistent bike lanes, potholes, grates and other hazards can threaten riders.

Between 2017 and 2022, 233 people died in the US due to accidents involving micromobility devices. During those years, electric scooters were responsible for nearly 170,000 emergency department visits. Thirty-six percent of those injured by micromobility devices were children 14 years old and younger.

UNC Greensboro staff will be giving away helmets during the carnival.

But safety problems aren’t the only things ruffling Bird’s feathers. In January, some UCLA students experienced app glitches. Bird also overstated their revenue numbers between 2020-21.

Plus, the company violated many cities’ laws by putting their scooters in unauthorized areas. TCB’s Publisher Brian Clarey saw this first-hand in 2018, when Bird originally swooped into Greensboro. 

“No one asked for the Bird scooters, which appeared overnight in Greensboro and other cities around the country with nothing but some basic instructions and an app,” Clarey wrote at the time. In August 2018, an onslaught of around 450 Bird scooters hit streets without city permission. Then the city ordered the company to hit the road — and keep off theirs.

Now, it’ll be up to riders and the company to see if the scooters are here to stay.

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