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Cambridge Orders Bird To Remove Scooters, Pending Permit Deal

A man rides an electric-scooter-sharing from a company called the 'Bird' along Pennsylvania Ave., in front of the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington on May 14. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
A man rides an electric-scooter-sharing from a company called the 'Bird' along Pennsylvania Ave., in front of the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington on May 14. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
This article is more than 3 years old.

The city of Cambridge on Monday ordered Bird Rides Inc. to remove its rentable electric scooters from public streets until it reaches a permit deal with the city. But the California-based company did not immediately agree to comply, setting up a possible legal battle.

Cambridge Transportation Director Joe Barr said city officials told Bird representatives during an hour-long meeting that the city is prepared to embrace the company under certain safety and accessibility conditions. Until those conditions are met, Barr said, Bird must halt operations.

He said the city would impound Bird scooters or sue the company, if it does not suspend service.

“We’re prepared to take action,” Barr said. “We don’t want it to be an empty threat.”

Bird said in a statement that its "goal in every city is to work closely and develop a framework that works for everyone," and that Monday's meeting with Cambridge officials "was just part of that effort." The company did not commit to removing its scooters.

Bird didn't get permission from Cambridge or Somerville before rolling out its scooter service in those cities this month, and the unannounced debuts irritated officials.

"It's just not a good way to establish a relationship with the community," Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern told WBUR last week.

Through its mobile booking app, Bird instructs riders to wear helmets, stay off sidewalks and follow all rules of the road. The company also says riders must be at least 18 years old and hold valid drivers' licenses.

But there are no enforcement mechanisms. Anyone with a smartphone can use the Bird app to locate a scooter, rent it and take off at up to 15 miles per hour. A rental costs $1 up front and 15 cents per minute after that.

San Francisco ordered Bird to stop operating in that city in April, saying riders were driving unsafely and leaving scooters in places that create tripping hazards and impede wheelchair access.

Bird has pulled out of San Francisco for now. But the company has concluded battles with other cities favorably. Bird paid $300,000 in February to settle a permitting dispute with the city of Santa Monica and now operates openly there.

The company has raised $415 million in venture capital.

Callum Borchers Twitter Reporter
Callum covered the Greater Boston business community for Bostonomix.

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