Move over, bike share. Scooters are back.
Bird, a scooter-sharing startup, launched a pilot fleet of more than 60 dockless, electric scooters Thursday around the Baltimore Harbor. They can be rented for $1 to start and an additional 15 cents a minute, using a mobile app.
“Birds,” as the company calls its battery-powered, Razor-style scooters, are intended to help address the city’s “urgent need for additional transit options,” the firm said in its announcement.
“Birds are a great solution for short ‘last mile’ trips that are too long to walk, but too short to drive,” it said. “As summer heats up, Bird offers a convenient alternative to sitting in traffic or sweating through a walk or bike ride.”
The app showed 62 scooters scattered around the Inner Harbor, Harbor East and Fells Point as of Thursday morning. As ridership increases, the fleet will be expanded “to serve all of Baltimore’s residents and communities,” the company said.
The fleet could face an uphill battle in Baltimore, where officials temporarily shut down the Baltimore Bike Share system for a month last year after thefts, vandalism and a long maintenance backlog left more bikes out of service than on the streets.
One difference: Bird says it will retrieve the scooters at sunset each evening for storage, charging and any necessary repair.
Led by a former Uber and Lyft executive, the startup is raising $150 million in financing that will value the company at $1 billion, according to Bloomberg.
But the company has run into regulatory issues in cities like San Francisco, where the scooters popped up all over, prompting city officials to require permits for Bird and two competitors, Lime and Spin, to operate, and order all scooters off city sidewalks earlier this month.
To address those concerns, Bird pledged the nightly pickups, as well as promising to grow fleets only when each scooter is being used at least three times a day, and remit $1 per scooter to the cities where it operates “to build more bike lanes, promote safe riding, and maintain our shared infrastructure.”
More than a third of car trips in the U.S. are less than two miles long, the company says.
“Bird's mission is to replace these trips — get people out of their cars, reduce traffic and congestion, and cut carbon emissions,” it said.
In a statement, the Baltimore City Department of Transportation sounded supportive of the new program.
The department “believes that this technology can expand transportation options to the residents, businesses and visitors of Baltimore,” spokesman German Vigil wrote. “We also see the potential of a new mobility pilot project and are in the process of investigating the effectiveness of a program such as this.”