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Is Bird Scooter The New Uber?

If you live or work in Santa Monica or Westwood, you have probably seen these Bird Scooters “parked” in the middle of the sidewalk. When I first saw them, I just thought somebody left their scooter unlocked and would soon be left with no scooter.

Then I found out that these scooters are for rent by downloading an app (iOS or Android) for $1.00 + 15 cents per minute. The best part is, when you are done, you simply leave it on the sidewalk and walk away.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, when I first heard about Uber and Airbnb, they sounded crazy too. As it turns out, Bird was started by an ex-Lyft/Uber executive who just recently got another investment of $100M, after getting $15M about a month ago. Yes. Those numbers are correct, and in USD.

So how does it work? You download the app, sign-up with your credit card, then the app will show you a map showing where the scooters are located. You can touch the icon to see how much battery is left on that scooter. Walk up to the scooter and scan the QR code (see the box of dots below) on the scooter and it will “unlock” the scooter. The very first time you use it, you will have to scan in your drivers license.

Then get on, kick start, push the throttle up on the right handle, and go! Top speed is about 15 MPH, which doesn’t sound very fast but it feels fast when you are on a scooter and cars are going by. To stop, the brake is on the left handle bar. I’ve had to “slam” on the brake and because it stops the back wheel, you will not flip over but you have to avoid losing control. There is a bell and a front head-light that apparently goes on when it’s dark. When you are done, get off, use the kickstand to keep the scooter standing, and “lock” the scooter with the app. Now just walk away.

The app will show you the ride time, distance and cost (see below left). Later, if can look at your ride history and even see your route (below right). As you can see, the route is not very accurate and has me riding through buildings but you get the idea of where you were going.

Bird tells you that you have to wear a helmet and you should not ride on the sidewalk, but their own Instagram account shows pictures of people not wearing a helmet. However, Bird offers a free helmet if you want one (see below right). When I used the app, there was a bug that allowed me to select multiple sizes and they sent me the wrong size. The helmet is probably worth about $3-$5. But, hey, it’s free.

Bird picks up the scooters at 8pm so you can’t use them very late. They charge the batteries overnight and bring them back out the next morning. Some businesses don’t mind these scooters being left in front of their place, while others have signs asking Bird not to leave them there.

For students at UCLA, I’m sure this is a great way to get around the campus. For non-students, it’s hit or miss because if there’s no scooter nearby by chance, you can’t use it. But according to the app, there are about 200 scooters near UCLA. I assume they will be spreading to other areas after their $100M infusion.

As for me, I only use it if I see one on my way somewhere. But I don’t carry around my helmet so it’s not really safe. Also, you can’t really carry a package like you can on a bike so it’s not useful for transporting goods. If you’re not a student, it’s probably not very useful but try it one time for the thrill.