A Childrens Toy in an Adult World
Since the beginning of time, humans have continuously looked for new ways of getting
from point A to point B quickly and at a relatively low cost. Over the past decade, the desire for
fast, cheap, and reliable modes of public transportation has grown significantly. The investments
made in public transportation have created and built new services around the country. The cities
that have made these investments are reaping the benefits of ridership and economic growth.
technology advances, the public transportation industry is booming with new ideas and
innovations that are changing the way humans live their lives. These technologies provide
citizens with easily accessible and cost-effective means of getting around. However, some of
these new innovations which have come in the form of an electric scooter, pose many dangers to
the health and safety of the rider as well as those around them. While these scooters provide
quick and easy transportation, the dangers they present can most easily be seen in an increasingly
popular form of transportation, the Bird electric scooter.
The year 1886 is rarely talked about, yet it is one of the most symbolic, and revolutionary
periods of time in the modern world: the genesis of the present-day automobile. It was in this
year that German inventor, Karl Benz patented his Benz-Patent-Motorwagen, making cars
widely accessible in the early twentieth century. It was over twenty years after the automobiles
inception into the lives of thousands that the technology became readily available to the masses.
In 1908, American inventor Henry Ford wanted to build a car for the multitudes. He
wanted it to be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care
for. Ford claimed it would be constructed of only the finest materials, by the best men to be
hired, and after the simplest designs that modern engineering could devise. His main objective is
still a factor that holds true with today’s inventors. It was to be so low in price that no man
making a good salary would be unable to own one, and enjoy with his family the blessing of the
embodiment of the independence and freedoms associated that founded this great country. Fords
Model T, generally regarded as the first affordable automobile, was the car that opened travel to
the common middle-class American.
Along with the car came the development of the assembly line which eliminated
individual handcrafting. By mechanically moving the parts to the assembly work and moving the
semi-finished assembly from workstation to workstation, a finished product can be assembled
faster and with less labor than by having workers carry parts to a stationary piece for assembly.
This changed the way that many of the products that are used today were created. It made mass
production possible and made those products cost-effective so that anyone could afford them
without the worry of going broke.
For roughly two hundred years, getting around was an arduous and exhausting
experience for Americans due to poor road conditions and inadequate modes of transportation
(Krotova). As growing demands met with the minds of brilliant creators, many different methods
of transportation have become available for use. Some have faded away with time and new
creations. Others have proven to be ahead of their time and are still used today. History has seen
the use of horse-drawn carriages, trains, bicycles, the steam and electric powered vehicle, and
most recently the gas powered car. With these staples of modern transportation, one can only
wonder what is to come for the future of innovations in public transport. That innovation has
arrived in the form of a three foot tall, two-wheeled, battery operated scooter.
While manually operated push scooters have been available since the early 1990s, only
recently in late 2017 did the more mature, rechargeable, battery-powered, older brother come
onto the main stage. The introduction of the Bird scooter has been one of immense criticism and
praise as the product as well as the company has created new obstacles in cities across the United
States that are forcing individuals to change the way they live their lives. Inspired by the
enormous success of startups like Uber and Lyft, car-based ride-sharing companies that have
boomed in popularity since their introduction, a former executive at both companies, Travis
Vanderzanden created the Bird scooter. These scooters have a brief and growing history
throughout the country.
Bird is a dockless, rechargeable scooter-share company based in Santa Monica,
California. It operates electric scooters in cities throughout North America, at a cost of one dollar
to rent, plus fifteen to twenty cents per every minute the scooter is in use. Weighing nearly
twenty-five pounds, the scooters can move at speeds topping out at fifteen miles per hour and
can travel roughly fifteen miles before needing to be charged. During the first year of the young
company’s existence, it has faced vast criticism. The company seems to sweep this under the rug
due to its claimed value of $2 billion dollars.
Bird has done many things in order to ensure maximum profits while ignoring many
apparent dangers and malpractices. For example, by avoiding the use of employees needed to
charge the scooters, the company has placed their charging needs in the hands of gig workers.
Bird scooters are charged by contractual workers who sign up on Birds website to be
chargers. After they are approved, the company sends them all necessary charging equipment
and pays the chargers between three to twenty dollars to charge the scooters overnight, then
place them at designated nests throughout the service area in the morning. With the number of
scooters that need to be picked up charging can become competitive. Chargers use vans to pick
up scooters all over the city. Given the widely distributed nature of the scooter, this kind of
charging system is essential to making the economics of the system work. Bird exploits the gig
workers since it passes many of the expenses that are usually handled by companies onto the
workers, such as taxes, benefits (or lack of), and expenses for wear and tear on vehicles. This
makes the earnings for the time spent working less than minimum wage for some chargers,
especially when more new people start competing for the same number of scooters in a given
area. In some areas, competition between rival chargers has resulted in violence.
The controversies that surround the company are not hard to find and have been cited in
many cities across the country. Bird tends to enter new communities without first informing
municipal and other local authorities of their intent to start operations in their jurisdiction. This
does not allow the local regulatory agencies enough time to formulate new rules that would
properly protect all of their residents without hindering the new service. In many of those new
cities, Bird has been levied fines for operating a business without a license, failure to follow
various business zoning laws, and for allowing parked scooters to accumulate outside of the
designated area in such a way that would block sidewalks.
Many of the rules that the company put into place are often flouted by many scooter
riders. Birds safety protocol is available on the companys website under the safety tab. The set
of rules listed consist of where to ride, where to park, the rules of the road, use of caution, and
more specifically how to find, operate, and ride the scooter. While Bird does a good job of listing
all of the possible ways to ensure the ride will be as safe as possible, the inevitable always
happens. This is where the term rules are made for breaking comes most readily to mind. The
Bird business model is supported by the absolutely transparent fiction that people will abide by
the rules. Few riders wear helmets, which are required by the company and state legislatures in
some instances. Helmets are even available for purchase from the companys website. Lots of
people ride double, even with small children onboard which is forbidden. People ditch the
scooters on sidewalks, creating hazards for pedestrians. The user is also supposed to be at least
eighteen years of age with a valid drivers license in order to ride a Bird, a requirement that is
When health and safety are on the line, it is crucial that one companys new product
doesn’t infringe on your right to move freely in public spaces without the fear of serious injury,
or even death. The company makes it clear that you are on your own if you crash into the
pavement or even an oncoming SUV while riding Birds scooter. By renting a Bird you are
agreeing to fully release, indemnify, and hold harmless (Bird) the company for injury, death,
and property damage among other losses. Robin Abcarian, a reporter for the ?Los Angeles Times,
reported in the papers July 6, 2018 issue that a Westside tech entrepreneur and her
seven-year-old son were walking on a sidewalk at UCLA when a Bird rider crashed into her at
full speed, briefly knocking her unconscious. Her doctor likened the force of impact to being
tackled by a football player (Abcarian). The woman, who chose not to have her name
mentioned in the article, was contemplating suing Bird. After contacting both her health and auto
insurance, neither of the two were willing to cover the costs of the damages done. The woman
was left to find out the bitter truth of the companys release statement.
Some scooter riders have chosen to ride on the sidewalks due to their sense of
vulnerability in sharing the roads with cars and other vehicles. On the companies website, it
instructs riders to take to the streets and ride the scooters in the designated bike lane. Claiming
that by allowing the scooters to intertwine with the rest of traffic, there will be no issue of build
up on the sidewalks. Bird tells its riders to follow the laws of whatever cities are providing the
scooters. The problem is that riders don’t always follow the rules and the company is well aware
of this. The companys business model instructs the riders to discard their spent scooters along
sidewalks and roadways, which in turn does the opposite of their intentions. This blocks the
public use of sidewalks and streets leading to congestion and an increased risk of accidents
involving riders and pedestrians.
Out of all the fallacies associated with the company, there is one thing that holds true.
Despite the dangers and all of the negative occurrences with the product, the company will
remain to stay in business. The skeptics say that these electronic scooter startups are annoying
and wildly overvalued. The optimists say these scooters are super fun and are liable to change
public transportation for the better. The issue with these scooter startups is that the companies
tend to reel in huge amounts of cash before attaining a clear view on how the economics will
work and where it can operate. All of the problems that these electric scooters face in cities still
need to be solved.
Even though it is a relatively young company, and has already been banned in several
cities and states across the country, Bird scooters are sought after by investors. Investors
bidding up scooter prices are motivated not by fundamentals but by a fear of missing out
(Levy). Venture capitalists are also betting that this fledgling market will grow rapidly as people
working downtown and attending college on big campuses recognize a new affordable and
efficient way to get around. However, some investors are hesitant to pour money into these
companies with the fear that they might become the next Segway, another technology that was
intended to revolutionize human transit but fell far short of expectations. While the public and
some investors remain wary of the possible dangers and issues associated with these scooter
companies, the company heads are cashing in on their big ideas. Following the business models
of former startups like Uber, which is now worth $62 billion dollars, these CEOs aim to do the
same with each company. Providing set rules and regulations to give their product a sense of
safety during use, the main goal, in the end, is money.
While these scooters have very quickly developed a dark reputation, when operated
properly, they have proven to be very useful and economically attainable for nearly anyone in
need of a quick and affordable way to commute short distances. The original intention for the
product was to eliminate the last mile of ones commute to work. After taking another form of
transportation whether it be a personal vehicle or public transport of any sort, the scooters serve
their intended purpose in getting each individual from drop off to check-in, as quickly as
The introduction of the electric scooter as a common mode of public transportation brings
many changes to the way society is organized as well as operated. By bypassing the use of
employees, Bird has opened new doors in the minds of entrepreneurs everywhere. However, this
might prove dangerous if the hired workers are not subject to testing and background checks,
like any other job would do. The scooters are effectively changing how individuals commute as a
whole. With the download of an app, the snap of a QR code, and a few quick pushes to get
rolling, the scooters can zoom up to 15 mph to any destination of your choice (Skahill). Now
rather than walking your last mile to work, an appointment, or even shopping, these scooters
offer a budget efficient and fast alternative to using one’s own two legs.
In a world of endless movement, primarily dominated by cars, it is imperative that these
companies consider the necessary steps in order to implement the electric scooter into society
providing safe and quick transportation. Through new ideas and innovations, the public
transportation industry has experienced many changes. Providing citizens with easily accessible
and cost-effective means of transportation. Despite the positive changes in the modes of
transportation that have been created with Bird scooters, there are many underlying negative
personal and public safety issues associated with these changes. As these technologies become
more and more accessible for all, innovators and lawmakers alike aim to implement a set list of
laws in order to control the safety of the user and the passerby.
Abcarian, Robin. Bird scooters – so much fun, so damn dangerous. ?Los Angeles Times, ?LA
Times, 6 Jul. 2018,
Accessed 10 Nov. 2018.
Bird. Safety first. ?Bird ?, Bird, 2018, Accessed 10 Nov. 2018
Krotova, Elena. Transportation in the United States – A Brief History. ?Corsia, ? Corsia
Levy, Ari. Investors explain why they’re racing to get into scooter companies like Lime and
Bird, driving valuations into the billions. ?Tech ?, CNBC, 14 Jun. 2018,
ve.html. Accessed 10 Nov. 2018.
Marshall, Arian. Not Just Tech Bros: E-Scooter Fans Are Surprisingly Diverse. ?Wired, ?Wired,
24 Jul. 2018,
Skahill, Madi. Breaking down the benefits of Bird scooters. ?VOX, ?VOX Magazine, 1 Sep.
8-8e54-13d11452c45d.html. Accessed, 10 Nov. 2018.