It’s been said that the scooter wars will be a bloodbath, and that Uber will win. Over the weekend, though, one of the ride-hailing companies’ rivals (in the two-wheeled market, at least) showed that it’s not afraid to steal a trick or two from Uber’s Kalanick Era of yesteryear — and launched a series of stealth attacks on unsuspecting cities.
That Rival: Bird, which has made some noble pledges to municipal regulators about picking up its scooters and sharing revenue with public entities. But regulators in Providence, Rhode Island and Cambridge and Somerville, both in Massachusetts, were surprised when the company dropped off fleets without warning on Friday, WCVB reports.
Officials in Providence, at least, are in contact with the California-based company, according to NBC 10 News.
“We are also in the early stages of developing a policy for dockless scooters,” a spokesperson for the city told the channel. “The city does not have a contract with them.”
“Ask forgiveness, not permission” has begun to define Bird, which is headquartered in Santa Monica, California and was founded by a former Uber exec. Its vehicles were also left without warning on the streets of St. Paul and Salt Lake City recently.
St. Paul’s mayor told reporters last week that officials would begin collecting the company’s scooters (that is, if they were still in the public right-of-way as of 12 p.m. on July 20). In Salt Lake City, meanwhile, Bird took the scooters out of circulation once the city told the company that the vehicles were out of compliance, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
In Salt Lake, officials have since worked on creating rules to accommodate the scooters.
“The city has scrambled to draft an operating agreement that would create licensing requirements, safety regulations, and limits on how many dockless scooters and bikes can be scattered around,” according to the paper.
St. Paul is also reportedly working on a program to oversee several companies, including Bird.
The company wasn’t so lucky in Nashville, as Next City reported at the time. Just two weeks after Bird launched, the city shooed it away.
“Bird scooters have been observed by employees of the Metropolitan Government obstructing the public sidewalk,” Metro attorney Theresa Costonis wrote in a letter in May. The relationship seems to have smoothed over a bit, though — a pilot program has since been announced, and the city anticipates scooters rolling out with its official blessing in August.
Bird, of course, is only one side of the scooter wars — its competitors include Lime and Spin, among others. Uber has partnered with Lime, and purchased Jump Bikes in April, which offers scooter rentals as well.
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.