Scooter rental company Bird placed several dozen scooters across Norman, primarily in and around Campus Corner, Aug. 17. While people have already started riding the scooters around town, Norman’s city government is trying to find a way to regulate this new mode of transportation.
According to its website, Bird has scooters in 29 cities across the U.S. and in Paris. Users can rent scooters for a short period of time via the Bird app, picking up and dropping off the scooters from “nests” located in busy areas.
Because the scooters are placed in public right-of-way spaces, Norman city officials are researching what city ordinances may apply to Bird.
“We’re currently looking into what permits and ordinances will apply to this case,” said Terry Floyd, city of Norman development coordinator. “The city has regulations for bikes, mopeds and similar vehicles, but we aren’t sure yet where these scooters fall. We’re looking to other communities with the scooters to see what actions we might take.”
Floyd said that, while the Norman city government is not against the scooters, they want to find a way to make sure they are properly regulated and taken care of.
According to its website, Bird has dedicated itself to a Save Our Sidewalks (SOS) pledge. The company has pledged to pick up and repair its scooters, to maintain a reasonable number of vehicles in public areas and to give $1 per vehicle per day back to the city.
“Last week, Bird began offering its fleet of dock-free, electric scooters to (the) University of Oklahoma as part of our new University Pop-Up Tour,” a Bird spokesperson said in an email to The Daily. “We are excited to bring our affordable transportation option to the students and faculty of the university.”
According to an article in PR Newswire, Bird’s University Pop-Up Tour will visit public and private colleges around the country to introduce students to its scooters. The article includes a link to an application for colleges to fill out if they want to be included in the tour.
In an email to The Daily, associate vice president of OU Web Communications Erin Yarbrough stated that the university did not sign up for the tour, but that they were notified by Bird on Friday night that the scooters would be placed near campus.
The Daily reached out to Bird, asking how OU was selected to be part of the tour, but received no comment.
Oklahoma City also recently saw the introduction of Bird scooters throughout the downtown area. The Oklahoma City Council voted Aug. 14 to impound the scooters if Bird did not secure the proper permits to operate in the city by Monday. In a tweet on Tuesday, Oklahoma City stated that none of the scooters were impounded and that Bird now has revocable permits for 15 nests of 5 scooters each in the downtown area.
The new ordinance allows Public Works, not the police, to impound rental scooters. But no, none were impounded. As of Monday, Bird has revocable permits for 15 "nests" of five scooters each around downtown. ^mk— City of OKC (@cityofokc) August 21, 2018
Bird has faced similar backlash in other cities where it has placed scooters without proper permits. Seven cities, including Denver, have impounded Bird scooters until further notice. Several others, including Austin and San Francisco, have sent cease and desist letters to Bird asking them to file for a permit or face legal action.