[Spotlight] Bird is the word
By: Sebastian Pellejero
Walk through the streets of Winston-Salem, and you might come across an unfamiliar vehicle. It’s a scooter, and it’s there for anyone to ride.
Bird, the dockless scooter-share company, has arrived in Winston-Salem, and for just $1 for the first minute and 20 cents for each minute after, smartphone users can rent freestanding electric scooters to ride around the streets and sidewalks, reaching speeds up to 15 miles per hour.
With cities and their residents looking for both cheap and energy-efficient transit options, scooters have become en mode. Billed as travel for “last-mile” journeys, and recently valued at over $2 billion, according to Business Insider, Bird, along with other electric scooter-share companies such as Lime and Skip, have made it to cities nationwide. Though enjoyed by some, electric scooters have proven to be a divisive issue in other cities, producing battles akin to those prior between governments and the ride-sharing service Uber.
Go to Washington D.C. or Los Angeles, and one can find tarnished scooters in the streets, if not for deliberate reasons. In Santa Monica, Bird’s headquarters, the city government took the company to court after accusing it of failing to acquire a proper business license, only to later settle for $300,000. On Instagram, one can visit the Bird Graveyard (www.instagram.com/birdgraveyard), where pictures and videos of scooters being destroyed abound.
In many cities across the country, scooters are appearing more and more at the haste of their owners. In Winston-Salem, Bird scooters landed overnight in late August.
An assistant city manager Damon Dequenne told the Winston-Salem Journal’s Scott Sexton in an article on Sept. 8 (www.journalnow.com/news/columnists/scott_sexton/bird-electric-scooters-have-landed-in-a-big-way/article_729b0442-5782-55b3-aa56-b1937e961c7d.html) that they had been hoping to collect data from other cities with scooters to present to the city council and its Public Safety Committee, before the arrival of them on the streets.
Other public officials have sought to gain their own footing on the industry. Councilman Jeff MacIntosh asked city staff for information on how other cities were addressing the matter.
“You don’t want to be draconian about it,” Councilman MacIntosh told the Winston-Salem Journal. “We’re competing with other cities for jobs. I don’t mind a little weird, just as long as it’s not dangerous.”
For those looking for added revenue streams, Bird offers the opportunity to become a charger for them. In becoming a charger, one agrees to collect, charge and distribute scooters from across town. Chargers are paid daily, by the scooter. Some students in the area have seen Bird as a gilded opportunity.
“Birds are super convenient, and the way they integrate into smaller campuses is ideal for students,” said Muhammad Anmar, a 22-year-old Master’s candidate at Wake Forest, who has considered signing up as a charger. “Being a charger is a really convenient opportunity to gain some extra funds.”
For Bird, it seems Wake Forest was in mind when choosing to bring their scooters to Winston-Salem. In a statement sent to the Winston-Salem Journal, a Bird spokeswoman expressed how the company was “especially happy to see students and faculty of [Wake Forest] taking advantage of Bird as a way of connecting with the community.
Whatever the national climate, for now, scooters have taken to the streets. Ride carefully and wear a helmet.