Bird has had a fair bit of legal trouble after the company began to operate without mandatory permits in cities across the United States. A fair amount of media attention has been given to this problem – arguably more attention than some of Bird’s competitors have received.
Bird has struck a nerve with cities all over by setting up shop without permits – sometimes without even contacting the host city at all! The city of St. Louis required Bird to pull its scooters from city streets after only a week of operating without permits after Milwaukee informed the company that it could not lawfully operate on its sidewalks or roadways the month before*. Milwaukee actually went so far as to sue Bird in federal court to compel the company to remove its scooters from the city**.
In California, Bird has faced criminal sanctions for refusing to obtain operating permits. In December of 2017, the city of Santa Monica filed a nine-count misdemeanor criminal complaint against Bird for operating its scooters without city approval, ignoring citations requiring the company to obtain proper operating permits, and refusing to remove its scooters from city streets***. In February 2018, Bird plead no contest to those charges and agreed to pay more than $300,000 in fines, in addition to securing proper operating permits.
Some of California’s largest cities have been unwelcoming to Bird, even after the company has applied for permits. As of August 2018, the city of San Francisco declined to provide Bird with the permits necessary for the company to operate within the city limits****. That means that Bird scooters cannot legally be rented and operated there.
Although little-known to the general public, Bird was a sponsor of Assembly Bill 2989, legislation intended to eliminate helmet requirements for scooter riders over the age of 18 across the state of California*****. Approved by Governor Brown in September of 2018 and effective in January of 2019, AB-2989 eliminates state requirements for all electric scooter riders over the age of 18 to wear helmets. Does that sound very safety-oriented? We don’t think so!
Carelessly discarded scooters
Like its competitors, Bird has been in hot water with city officials after riders have left its scooters in random locations all over. Because Bird scooters are dockless, they can be left just about anywhere, including sidewalks and private property. The problem is that riders abandoning Bird scooters wherever they please creates safety concerns for pedestrians and motorists alike, depending on where the scooters are left. If these scooters are left on private property, property owners are stuck either relocating the scooters themselves or waiting until someone (usually a new rider) comes and gets them.
Although dockless scooters are designed to be convenient, they have become a nuisance and a safety risk in cities that they operate in. Bird has been subject to much criticism in recent months due to riders’ ability to leave their scooters wherever and without repercussion.