Bird has struck again — this time in Charleston.
The Post and Courier reports:
The scooters arrived with little warning — no hype, no preview, no city approval. When day broke on the weekend, they were just there.
Several dozen of them, actually, scattered across the Charleston peninsula and West Ashley. They were parked around The Citadel, they were parked on sidewalks on the Westside, and they were parked around Avondale.
Last month, the Santa Monica-based scooter company left fleets on the sidewalks of three New England cities without any notice, and it’s pulled similar stunts in St. Paul and Salt Lake City. Its strategy appears to be a two-wheeled version of Uber’s notorious “ask forgiveness, not permission.” (Bird was, after all, founded by a former Uber executive). By just showing up, the company forces a faster kick-off of the regulation process.
But according to the Charleston City Paper, this drop happened in less of a legal gray area. Bird apparently began operating without a business license even after the city told the company that would be illegal.
“Bird Rides, Inc. applied for a business license in Charleston sometime last week, but the application process was not completed after city officials determined that the business plan violated city rules,” the City Paper reports.
A letter from city attorney Steve Ruemelin to Bird says the city will consider it a violation each time a scooter is rented and “each day a scooter remains in the city,” according to the City Paper.
Bird’s statement suggested the company will comply.
“After testing a pilot program over the weekend, Bird has agreed to remove its scooters from Charleston,” the company said, according to the City paper. “We look forward to working with city officials on a framework that would allow our reliable transportation option to be available, and we are hopeful that we will be back on the streets soon to help the people of Charleston more easily move around their city.”
Despite its fly-by-night drop-offs, the company has also tried to play nice with city governments, vowing to pick up its scooters and share data with public entities. Earlier this month, it announced that it would begin directing revenue into a dedicated fund to create and improve transit infrastructure in the cities where it operates. The initiative would set aside $1 per day per scooter to build and maintain protected bike lanes.
After removing the scooters from Charleston by Monday, Bird’s scooters showed up in a neighboring city by Tuesday, according to WCSC Live 5 News.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.