Vehicle-sharing company Bird’s electric scooters were back on Austin’s streets today, more than two months after it and LimeBike initially, and illegally, launched operations in the city. The immediate aftermath of that launch was the impounding of both companies’ vehicles by the city. In the long term, though, the move prompted Austin leaders to push forward a dockless-vehicle ordinance and pilot program more quickly than expected. On May 8, City Manager Spencer Cronk’s office adopted emergency rules for the deployment of dockless systems.
Dockless-vehicle rental companies Spin and Zagster followed with a letter to “city officials,” claiming Bird and LimeBike had gained an unfair market advantage with their premature launches and should be banned from the city. The city had already made an agreement with Bird and LimeBike that the two would return to “good standing” if they refrained from operation until the city finished its process and the companies obtained licenses.
The Save Our Sidewalks pledge
Upon today’s return, permit in hand, Bird announced that it will support sustainable transportation efforts in Central Texas by donating $1 per vehicle per day Movability, a transportation management agency that works with private companies to reduce employees’ drive time in a variety of ways.
The donations are part of the company’s fulfillment of its “Save Our Sidewalks” pledge—a plan created and adopted by BIrd to avoid overcrowding streets and sidewalks, as well as abandoned vehicles. According to company press materials, the pledge also requires that “Bird does not increase its supply of vehicles in a city unless they are being used at least three times per vehicle per day (weather permitting); all Bird vehicles are removed from the streets each night; and Bird commits $1 per vehicle per day to cities [in this case, due to city rules, to Movability instead] so they can build more bike lanes, promote safe riding, and maintain shared infrastructure.” The company also has a program for providing free helmets to riders who ask for them and plans a helmet-giveaway event with the city in the next few days.
The competition to date
Meanwhile, bike-share company Zagster began operating its business in Austin on Monday, with plans to roll out 200 dockless bicycles on city streets by the end of the week.
According to Zagster materials, the city’s emergency ordinance requires dockless shared vehicles have “lock-to” or haptic technology, so that they can be locked to something or corraled with a virtual fence, by August 1. Zagster’s Pace and Uber’s Jump bicycles are the only ones in the dockless market that currently have those technologies.