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Bird Quietly Ends a Much-Hyped Bike Lane Subsidy

Photo: Elvert Barnes/Flickr/CC

The scooter company Bird has quietly abandoned its much-hyped plan to give cities $1 per scooter per day to build bike infrastructure — a huge backtrack by the wealthy firm that once sought to be a partner with cities for safer streets.

Bird corporate did not respond to repeated requests for information. But an official in one city where Bird operates e-scooters tells us the company confirmed it to representatives of that city yesterday. Information about the program, which was launched August in response to some of the safety concerns local officials raised, has been scrubbed from the company's website.

Here is what it looked like before (hat tip to @AsherdeMontreal).

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Bird is valued at $2 billion, but Axios reported last month that scooter companies are running low on cash. Some investors have been scared off by the short self life of the vehicles and VC cash has been drying up — but only to some extent.

Baltimore is one city that has been collecting the fees. Jed Weeks of the local bike advocacy organization Bikemore tells us that the $1-per-scooter-per-day payment has been written into the city's legal agreement with Bird. It has raised about $110,000. The city has not used it to build any additional bike lanes or budgeted it yet, however, Weeks said.

Meanwhile, San Jose officials said they never received any money because the city never created a legal mechanism to collect money from the private company, a city spokesperson told Streetsblog. The money would have helped fund San Jose's bike lane efforts.

Kansas City, like Baltimore, took Bird's offer of $1-per-scooter-per-day and rolled it into its operating agreement. Lime now pays something similar, as well says Eric Bunch of the Bike Walk Kansas City.

Meanwhile, in Raleigh, City Council approved new regulations that will charge Bird a $300 per scooter per year (do the math: That's almost $1-per-scooter-per-day). Raleigh says the fees are necessary to recoup the costs incurred to deploy police officers to bust scooter drivers who ride on the sidewalks. Bird retaliated by imposing a new $2 "transportation fee" on scooter users. The company then asked users to email their representative urging them to "real this unreasonable fee."

Bird's $1-per-scooter-per-day pledge was promoted as a major component of the company's safety commitment and was widely hyped in the media.

In its announcement, Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden called it one aspect of the "Save our Sidewalks" pledge and urged competitors to follow suit. The company was facing heat from the City of Santa Monica over complaints about safety and sidewalk access.

"As an industry of innovators, we need to lead not just on technology, but on social responsibility, he wrote. "We hope that all of you join us in this S.O.S. Pledge to help our cities thrive."

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