Bird, which introduced dockless scooters to Baltimore a year ago, has been turned down for a permit by the city.
Bird, which introduced dockless scooters to Baltimore a year ago, has been turned down for a permit by the city. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

When it comes to scooters, Baltimore isn’t Birdland after all.

The city awarded dockless scooter and bike permits to four companies — Lime, Spin, Bolt and Jump — but not Bird, the first to drop its dockless electric scooters in the city last summer.

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“We had a competitive application process, developed really over course of the entire pilot period," said Meg Young, the shared-mobility coordinator at the Baltimore City Department of Transportation who oversaw the process. “I’m thrilled we got seven applications for the permit. It speaks to how much ridership and what a strong program we have.”

The four companies that received permits had the highest cumulative score across 11 criteria, including compliance with regulations, maintenance, operations, hiring, sustainability, data policies, and education and engagement, Young said.

Representatives from the city’s Transportation, Planning, Law, and Performance & Innovation departments reviewed the seven applications, which consisted of about 500 pages in all, she said. The dockless scooters are GPS-enabled, allowing riders to find and rent them using the companies’ mobile apps.

Bird must remove its scooters from the streets by the end of the day Tuesday, said German Vigil, a city Transportation Department spokesman.

Bird said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the rejection. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based startup prompted Baltimore officials to create a dockless policy by deploying its fleet of scooters across the city without permission last summer. It pledged to further negotiate its inclusion in the program with city officials.

“Baltimore residents, community groups, and local businesses have made clear that they enjoy our service and want Bird as an option in the city," said Mackenzie Long, a Bird spokeswoman. “We were surprised and disappointed to learn of [the transportation department’s] decision and look forward to discussing it with them further so we can continue to provide Baltimore visitors and residents our micro-mobility alternative that is backed by unmatched operational experience and commitment to safety."

Lime praised Baltimore’s leadership on micro-mobility, which is “yielding tremendous benefits for its residents when it comes to providing sustainable, reliable and equitable transportation options,” said Stephen Deline, Lime’s city operations manager, in a statement.

"We look forward to increasing our presence in Baltimore — both in fleet size and through local hiring — and working with the city to achieve successful outcomes together,” Deline said.

Spin was thrilled to be granted a permit and sees its scooters as an alternative option “for residents commuting in particular,” market manager Dylan Shapiro said in a statement.

“Our whole team is looking forward to expanding our fleet and continuing to offer safe, reliable rides around Baltimore,” Shapiro said.

Jump’s mission is giving residents a way to get around town without needing to own a car, said Nick Valentino, JUMP General Manager of the Baltimore-Washington region.

The Uber-backed scooter company is “thrilled to further demonstrate our commitment to Baltimore and its residents by providing an environmentally friendly way to get from point A to point B,” Valentino said in a statement.

Bolt hasn’t launched yet in Baltimore, city officials said. It could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The other rejected applicants were San Francisco-based Skip and Chicago-based Veoride, Young said.

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Skip and Veoride did not respond Thursday to requests for comment.

The permanent program also will add bicycles to the mix.

Lime plans to introduce 150 electric bicycles in addition to its fleet of 1,850 scooters, company officials said. Jump also plans to add bikes to its fleet, according to the city.

Bird’s debut in Baltimore in June 2018 was the city’s first experience with the recent national phenomenon of dockless, electric scooter companies dropping fleets on streets.

Then-Mayor Catherine Pugh introduced Bird and Lime as the inaugural members of the city’s dockless scooter pilot program, which replaced the beleaguered Baltimore Bike Share system in August.

Bird hired Baltimore-based lobbyist Rick Abbruzzese and unsuccessfully sought to negotiate the city’s 10-cent-per-ride tax down to 5 cents-per-ride.

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said the dockless program “affirms my commitment to providing equitable and accessible transportation options” for all city residents.

“We are creating new and sustainable mobility choices that are efficient for Baltimore residents and all those who visit our great city," the mayor said in a statement.

Steve Sharkey, the city’s acting transportation director, called the permanent dockless vehicle program “a major step towards more equitable transportation options that will help the citizens of Baltimore.”

“Over the course of the next year, we will continue to evaluate this program in an effort to improve services being provided by the four companies,” Sharkey said in a statement.

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