The Bulletin

Scooter share says it’s operating legally in Richmond, plans meeting with city

By: - August 17, 2018 6:22 pm
Richmond employees scooped up dockless, electric rental scooters dropped around the city by Bird. It was the second day in a row the company had put out scooters and the city impounded them. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury – Aug. 17, 2018)

The company behind a dockless, electric scooter rental business that popped up in Richmond without warning Thursday says it believes it’s operating legally in the city.

Bird, a well funded California tech company, dropped a fresh batch of scooters around the city Friday, less than 12 hours after city officials began impounding the first wave on orders from the Department of Public Works.

By early afternoon, city workers were again making the rounds, throwing the scooters in city trucks.

By the end of the day, city and company officials said they’d agreed to a meeting Tuesday, though a Bird spokeswoman did not respond to questions about how the company plans to proceed in the interim. Do they have an endless well of replacement scooters if the city keeps scooping them up or are they ending service?

All the Bird spokeswoman said was:  “Bird believes we are operating legally in Richmond, and we are encouraged to see the community already embracing our transportation option. We are committed to working closely with local officials so that our affordable, environmentally friendly vehicles can be available, and we look forward to having productive conversations with local leadership.”

Bird’s only other market in Virginia is in Arlington County, where officials determined that there were no relevant city or state codes addressing the situation but resolved to draft some regulations governing the program in the coming months.

In Richmond, the city justified the scooters’ removal in a letter to Bird citing two code sections:

Sec. 24-59. – Authorization required for encroachments and uses: No encroachment or other use of a street, sidewalk or public way, in a manner not otherwise permitted to the general public, shall be authorized without the consent of the Director of Public Works, the Director’s designee or the City Council, except in accordance with this chapter.

Section 24-115 – Definitions: Discouraged encroachment means an encroachment type the City administration discourages due to reasons applicable to excessive or undesirable use, encumbrances, hampering, or interference of the area within the right-of-way, or to reasons applicable to aesthetics, public safety, or the City’s current practices, policies, or regulations.

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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.