Bird Scooters Launch ‘Illegal,’ City Manager Says

An image from the Bird app.

A new transportation option arrived in the city on Friday: electric, dockless Bird scooters. But the city says the scooter company didn’t communicate with officials or obtain any permits before launching, and called Bird’s operation illegal.

“Any operation by Bird of its electric scooter business on Cambridge streets and sidewalks without prior authorization from the appropriate City permitting authorities would be illegal,” City Manager Louis A. DePasquale told Bird officials in a letter on Tuesday, which a city spokesperson shared with Scout.

“I am advised that you do not have the authorizations or permissions required to operate such a system in Cambridge, nor have you requested any such required authorizations or permissions from the City,” the letter continues. “The City will not permit Bird’s electric scooters to be parked and used on City-owned streets, sidewalks, and other public property without all required authorizations and permissions having first been obtained.”

The city will meet with Bird officials on July 30, according to a city spokesperson.

Bird scooters are designed to be used for short trips to cut down on driving, according to a company spokesperson. Fifteen is the magic number for the scooters: Trips cost 15 cents per minute (on top of a $1 base fee), the scooters go up to 15 miles per hour, and a charge lasts about 15 minutes.

“We are excited to bring our affordable transportation option to the people and local communities. Birds are perfect for those “last mile” trips that are too long to walk, but too short to drive,” the company said in a statement.

Riders are asked to leave the scooters near bike racks when they’re finished with them, and overnight they’re moved to “nests” on private property, according to the statement. Users can find the scooters through the Bird app.

Bird operates in several other cities throughout the country, including Atlanta, Denver, and Los Angeles, and started serving Somerville on the same day as Cambridge. The scooter company ran into trouble in San Francisco earlier this year when the city sent a cease and desist letter and a city attorney called Bird “a public nuisance” and “unlawful,” according to Bloomberg.

Bird has taken a “Save Our Sidewalks Pledge,” offering to share $1 per vehicle each day with city governments to support infrastructure and bike lanes, among other pledges.

Bird did not respond to Scout’s request for further comment.