“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,” wrote Triad City Beat Publisher Brian Clarey in 2018.
When electric scooters and other micromobility devices such as electric bikes first started appearing all over the country, cities were thrown for a loop without a framework for their deployment. In January 2019, Bird and Lime were allowed to operate in Greensboro under a pilot program. This helped the city “understand and develop a program framework,” the city’s Transportation Director Hanna Cockburn told TCB. That month, Lime distributed around 100 scooters near UNCG, NC A&T State University and Guilford College as part of the pilot program, according to WFMY News. Following this, Lime was selected as the city’s original micromobility partner under an ongoing pilot framework, Cockburn added. In October 2020, city council formalized the program with ordinance changes and an official permitting process.
Per city ordinance, it’s against the law for anyone to “operate a commercial shared micromobility service within any public right-of-way without first obtaining a permit from the director of transportation and paying the proper fees.”
But the San Antonio-based company’s success was short-lived. In June 2023 they abruptly flew Greensboro’s coop after years of financial woes. A statement from the city asserts that Blue Duck “ended service on June 13, 2023, without notification to the city.”
Now, five years after they were unceremoniously dropped on Greensboro’s doorstep and chaos ensued, Bird scooters are coming back, per a city council decision on Tuesday.
Interestingly enough, the company filed for bankruptcy the next day.
On Wednesday, Bird said it will use the bankruptcy proceeding to facilitate a sale of its assets, which it expects to complete within the next 90-120 days.
However, Cockburn noted that Bird’s government partnerships manager “reached out proactively to share the details of their bankruptcy filing and reiterated their commitment to the launch of services in Greensboro.”
“Based on our conversations with the team at Bird, we are confident in their commitment to launch the services as planned in Greensboro. We look forward to a successful launch in the spring. City staff will be closely monitoring the program to ensure we receive the level and quality of services we expect,” Cockburn wrote.
Cockburn noted that Bird’s one-year permit period will likely begin in January or February “at the earliest.” The company will have the ”possibility of two, one-year extensions” according to city documents. Bird was selected after receiving proposals from three qualified vendors.
Bird will be the “sole operator of standup electric scooters and electric assist bikes for hire within the city limits of Greensboro,” city documents say. The city’s request for proposals included input from staff at UNCG.
Bird will pay an initial permit fee of $1,750 and a $0.15 cent per trip fee. An annual permit renewal fee of $1,000 will be paid in following years if Bird and the city agree to extend their contract.
While scooters soared as a popular mode of transportation before the pandemic, businesses took a hit in 2020, leaving companies like Bird and Blue Duck to plummet like Icarus from the height of their success. Greensboro’s Lime scooters were put in storage for a while during the pandemic to curb the spread of COVID-19, but returned in the summer of 2020.
They’re a bit pricey, too. While the cost of a ride depends on the city, there’s typically a $1 unlocking fee followed by 15 cents per minute used. A 20-minute trip could cost a rider $4.
The New York Stock Exchange delisted Bird in September when the company couldn’t comply with the exchange’s requirements: they couldn’t keep their market capitalization — the total value of all a company’s shares of stock — above $15 million for 30 consecutive days.
The company was once valued at $2.5 billion by investors.
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