The Bulletin

Dockless electric rental scooters dropped onto Richmond sidewalks overnight. They may not be here for long

By: - August 16, 2018 12:27 pm


Two electric scooters on Broad Street in downtown Richmond. Somewhere between 50 and 100 of the things showed up in Richmond overnight. People can rent them using the company’s app.

Update: A Bird spokeswoman says the company’s entry into Richmond is only temporary. She described it in an email this afternoon as a “pop up” timed to coincide with the beginning of fall classes at VCU. But she didn’t respond to questions about what exactly the company means by pop up and how long they plan on keeping the little things around Richmond.

Original post: A fast-growing electric scooter rental company appears to be continuing a guerrilla push into Virginia, dropping between 50 and 100 scooters around downtown Richmond early Thursday morning.

Bird, founded by a former Uber executive, lets people rent the scooters for a dollar and then pay 20 cents for each minute they use them. They max out at a top speed of about 15 miles per hour. When the ride is over, you leave it pretty much anywhere but the app prompts riders to take a picture to prove they didn’t ditch it in the middle of a sidewalk or street.

Bird keeps them charged by paying people through its app to pick them up at night, take them home, charge them and drop them back out on the street.

The company launched in Arlington County in late June with 50 scooters. Local officials were caught off guard, saying the company never contacted them or informed them of their plans.

The county is planning to role out a pilot program for dockless bikes and scooters, setting out regulations for how they can be operated, according to WTOP, but until then, the county attorney said there are no state or local regulations applicable to such operations. (Local officials didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.)

It sounds like Bird is taking the same don’t-ask-for-permission tack in Richmond, but company officials didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment. A city spokesman said he was looking into the situation.

The little scooters have been divisive in bigger cities, where they were rolled out first. They recently pulled out of Boston entirely after run-ins with local officials.

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Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association.