How escooter operator Bird rolled back onto DC streets after a mid-pandemic pause - Technical.ly DC

Growth

May 12, 2020 10:36 am

How escooter operator Bird rolled back onto DC streets after a mid-pandemic pause

As of May 6, Bird is operating again in the District, as well as offering free rides to healthcare workers and emergency personnel.
Bird is back in D.C.

Bird is back in D.C.

(Courtesy photo)

Update: The sentence noting that some Bird competitors have paused operations has been changed for clarity. (5/13/20, 1:11 p.m.)

Santa Monica, California-based escooter operator Bird halted its local operations in March when COVID-19 caused D.C. to enforce social distancing orders, as competitors have paused operations in cities around the country.

The company is now rolling out new plans and processes for its services in response to the pandemic.

“The team at Bird is not immune to these realities” of the pandemic, wrote Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer Rebecca Hahn in a blog post last month. “We’ve increased vehicle sanitization and, where necessary, paused micromobility operations in order to help riders, teammates and the general public adhere to local and state mandated restrictions as we attempt to flatten the curve.”

Bird is partnering with cities to begin measured fleet rollouts to provide micromobility alternatives to maintain social distancing regulations. The first phase of these measured rollouts include plans for D.C. along with Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia.

As of May 6, Bird is operating again in the District, as well as offering free rides to healthcare workers and emergency personnel.

“These are understandably worrying times,” said Hahn. “Working hand in hand with cities and local organizations, however, micromobility providers can and will help communities recover, and help riders regain mobility, in the wake of the most serious global pandemic in recent memory.”

(Notably, none of the once-fast-rising unicorn’s announcements of changes mention its financial hardships leading to layoffs for more than 400 employees last month.)

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Despite Bird’s reported success in D.C. last year, the escooter company was prepared to halt its operations in the District on March 31. This announcement came from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) back in December, which decided that it wouldn’t be renewing permits for four dockless escooter operators — including Bird.

Since then, the department said it has extended the 2019 Shared Dockless Vehicle Program through Dec. 31 instead, a DDOT spokesperson told Technical.ly. Permits were extended for all dockless escooter operators, which includes those that were supposed to get the boot: Bird, Lime, Razor and Bolt. These operators are required to adhere to the same terms and conditions they operated under last year. Skip, Jump, Lyft and Spin have also been permitted to continued operations in the District.

At the time of its reentrance to D.C. streets, Bird has also launched a new Warm Up mode: Each of its escooters are now equipped with a gentle acceleration option for riders to get comfortable using the vehicles again, or for the first time. When activated in the app, escooter acceleration will be low, allowing riders to better control their speed level. Bird said it launched Warm Up mode after finding that 75% of escooter riders want an option to ride at their own pace.

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