Bird looks poised to bring its shared, electric scooters to Seattle.
The startup is hiring for a local community manager in Seattle and has posted Craigslist ads every day since June 29 seeking “Chargers,” or independent contractors that help charge the scooters overnight. Bird declined to comment on the company’s expansion plans.
The Seattle Department of Transportation forbids free-floating scooters and has notified all companies operating those services of the city’s rules.
“If they did operate in Seattle without a permit we would confiscate all the equipment in the right of way that’s on the sidewalks and additionally issue fines to these companies,” said Joel Miller, SDOT’s bikeshare program manager.
But Bird has been known to move into cities without explicit regulatory approval. The Venice Beach, Calif.-based company, now reportedly valued at $2 billion, operates in more than 20 cites around the country. This week, Bird expanded to five new cities.
— Bird (@BirdRide) July 13, 2018
Miller said SDOT is aware of Bird’s job listings. The company tells SDOT that they are just putting the infrastructure in place to launch, if and when they get permission from the city, Miller said.
Free-floating scooter share is a new mobility service that’s gaining traction in the U.S. Bird’s scooters compete with an offering from Lime, which already has a foothold in Seattle. For the past year, Lime has been one of three companies in Seattle’s dockless bikesharing pilot.
Lime has been demoing its electric scooters at Seattle neighborhood events to build support for the service. But when GeekWire last spoke with Lime, the company said it was waiting for approval from Seattle officials before deploying scooters.
SDOT just finalized its recommended regulations for a permanent dockless bikesharing program. The department hasn’t started crafting rules of the road for scooters and doesn’t plan to in the near future.
If electric-scooter sharing programs do eventually get the green light from SDOT, one issue that needs to be resolved is the question of where these scooters can be ridden. Motorized scooters are currently illegal on city sidewalks, according to the Seattle Times, although the city does allow non-motorized bikes on sidewalks, and a new state law will make accommodations for electric bikes on sidewalks.
GeekWire reporter Taylor Soper contributed to this story.