I took my first proper Bird scooter ride at the mall, of all places, this past weekend, just before the city of Greensboro began removing them from its downtown district — where, it should be mentioned, they are technically illegal.

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. The company itself seems to be from the forgiveness-is-easier-than-permission school of thought; they do not generally integrate city governments with the placement of their service, according to national newspaper reports, and they don’t even seem to announce their presence.

But like all good cultural movements, they need no marketing.

We didn’t ask for the Bird scooters because we didn’t know we needed them, but they sure come in handy when you need to get from one part of downtown to another, or you’ve got a few hours to kill on a beautiful day, or if you’re trying to figure out where you parked your car at the mall.

They’re dangerous, sure. People are very definitely getting hurt on them. I suppose that doesn’t bother me as much as it should.

Because Bird scooters are useful. I see people using them all over the place to get to work, find their cars, tour a neighborhood, catch the bus. They’re popular, even — or especially — downtown, but really anywhere in the city where sprawl makes walking difficult. They’re disruptive, because they exist in a legal space — these scooters have been commercially available for years; nobody cared until there were a thousand of them out there.

And they’re subversive.

By putting scooters on the streets ahead of any legislation, or even discussion, about them, Bird is counting on the slow speed of government and the power of popularity to thwart any attempts at shutting down their business model.

You gotta respect that.

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