Bird launches sneaky pilot in London despite e-scooter ban
- Mobility company Bird has launched its first e-scooter fleet in London, the company announced on Twitter.
- Bird launched its pilot exclusively in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park because it is private land, and riding e-scooters on public roads or sidewalks is illegal in the United Kingdom, reports the BBC and others.
- Bird reportedly has been petitioning the U.K. to get the law changed so it can launch a larger-scale program in public areas.
Getting around existing rules in this way might seem like Bird pushing the envelope, but it's a more positive way to gain favor with authorities than by simply dumping devices in new cities with no warning. That had been the standard operating procedure for the mobility company during the first several months of the e-scooter boom, which rankled many municipal leaders. Cities like Richmond, VA issued cease-and-desist orders to Bird and impounded the devices soon after they appeared on city streets.
The company, along with competitor Lime, recently has taken a less confrontational approach and shown willingness to work more with cities, at least in some cases. For example, while Chicago leaders work out whether they want to allow scooters and launch an official pilot program, Lime made its scooters available for trial rides this summer. It didn't release the devices on a widespread basis, but only at protected areas where street festivals were taking place.
Getting a scooter law change in the U.K. will be more challenging than trying to work within U.S. cities' laws because of the scale of the task. It's a matter of changing the law for an entire nation as opposed to one municipality. Bird reportedly hopes that its mini-pilot in London, and its programs in other European cities including Paris, will help to convince leaders of e-scooters' benefits to residents and cities.
Bird only operates in a handful of foreign cities thus far, but gaining access to London — the city with the third largest population in Europe — could prove key for successful European expansion.
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