Electric Scooters Now Available to Rent in and Around Downtown
As of this morning, Columbus residents can now use their smartphones to book and pay for a ride on a small electric scooter. Dozens of the scooters, from California-based company Bird, were deployed today around Downtown, the Short North, and Bexley.
Much like the LimeBikes that recently arrived in the city, the scooters are scattered throughout a neighborhood and do not need to be returned to a docking station.
Unlike Lime, though, Bird does not appear to have reached out to neighborhood groups in advance of the launch or discussed the details with the City of Columbus.
Jeff Ortega, spokesperson for the Department of Public Service, said that the city is aware of today’s launch, and “looks forward to working with the company to see how it can best operate while ensuring that the public right of way is managed efficiently.”
“We are excited to bring our affordable, environmentally friendly transportation option to the people and communities of Columbus,” said a Bird spokesperson, via email. “Birds are perfect for those ‘last mile’ trips that are too long to walk, but too short to drive…right now, more than a third of cars trips in the U.S. are less than two miles long.”
The allure of a new last mile transportation solution has captured the imagination of Silicon Valley, which has been pouring venture capital funds into Bird (which launched in September of 2017 and now boasts a valuation of $2 billion) and other startups like Spin and Lime (which has only deployed its dockless bicycles so far in Columbus, but offers scooters in other markets).
The sudden deployment of thousands of scooters in cities like San Francisco, San Diego and Washington, D.C., has generated some controversy, though, with many expressing concern about safety and the scooters cluttering up the public right of way.
Bird has attempted to address some of these concerns, with a “save our sidewalks” pledge, and said in a statement that it is committed to “collaboratively work with city officials and community stakeholders.”