Bird lands in Birmingham

Photo by Amy Lawhon/Staff Photographer
bird scooter
Bird scooters operate in a dockless system, thus can most accurately be located on the Bird mobile app.

Bella Tylicki
Staff Reporter

Electric scooters appeared seemingly overnight around Birmingham last week. Electric scooters appeared seemingly overnight around Birmingham last week. Bird, an electric scooter share service, is targeting cities and college campuses to help combat traffic, parking and environmental crises stemming primarily from a lack of robust public transportation. The company came to Birmingham as part of its University Pop-Up Tour, a six-week venture to reach 150 campuses all over the country. 

“This year, as the summer comes to a close and students return to campus, they might be able to leave their cars behind by Birding,” said Travis VanderZanden, founder and CEO of Bird. “Whether it’s making it to a class on time, clocking in for work, or simply getting to campus from the nearest public transit stop, Bird will help eliminate transportation gaps so students and faculty can focus on what really matters: education.” 

According to the Federal Highway Administration’s 2017 National Household Travel Survey, about one-third of vehicle trips are two miles long or less. Bird wants to help eliminate those trips by providing an affordable, convenient and carbon-free alternative. Like Zyp Bikes that have been in Birmingham for nearly three years, Bird scooters can be located and paid for on a mobile app. What sets Bird apart from Zyp Bikes is that they can be parked anywhere, not just at designated racks. Each ride costs $1 plus 15 cents for every minute. Intended to be ridden in bike lanes or on the road, the scooters can reach 15 mph and travel about 15 miles on a full charge.

They can be rented from 7 a.m. to sunset when they are picked up for recharging and any necessary maintenance. Programs cleverly named One Bird and Red, White, and Bird waive the $1 base fee for veterans, active military members and riders enrolled in a state or federal assistance program, making the scooter share even more accessible to its target consumers. 

“Bird scooters seem to be helping the parking issues at UAB,” said Grace Woodley, junior in kinesiology. “I have seen scooters scattered around Southside, presumably from students riding them to and from class instead of driving and trying to find parking.”  

Woodley typically bikes to class but said electric scooters are a good alternative for students who are intimidated by biking up and down the hills lining the south end of campus. However, due to the dockless-nature of the scooters, there is no guarantee that there will be one nearby. 

“The app is super user-friendly…[and] the ride is also very smooth and quiet! I find it nice that the scooters don’t add to the street noise in downtown or on University [Blvd.]” Woodley said. 

Not everyone is giving Bird a warm welcome to Birmingham. City Councilor Darrell O’Quinn, chair of the transportation committee, criticized the company for operating without the necessary permits. O’Quinn is not the first authority to voice such complaints. Cities including Nashville, San Francisco and Venice, Calif., the city of Bird’s own headquarters, have expressed disdain for and even taken legal action against Bird. However, O’Quinn and his fellow Councilors exhibited openness to similar transportation alternatives when they heard a pitch from LimeBike, one of Bird’s competitors, in April.
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