Editor’s Opinion: What the Bird?

A letter of (potentially) unpopular sentiment from our Editor in Chief … 

Blah, blah, blah innovation. Blah technology. Blah the encroaching arm of disruptive businesses with aesthetically pleasing Instagram accounts and cool, one-word names.


I get it.

Those black scooters by Bird, a dock-less scooter share company based in Santa Monica, Calif., are solving some motorized, helmet-less problem we didn’t realize we had. Although are they really? Because from what I can see in the past week since these Birds have festered like an electric rash around town, people aren’t sure what they can — and can’t — do on them. Or, more toxic still, where to leave them when they’re done riding.

Bird scooters are reserved using the Bird app and cost $1 per ride plus $0.15 per minute. (There’s no arguing the cost-effectiveness of this mode of transportation.) So you ride them to your destination and then, you just leave them … well, anywhere.

The craziest thing about Bird isn’t even how in cities across America, one day they aren’t and the next day they are, it’s the name of Bird’s founder: Travis VanderZanden. He sounds like a character from an early episode of Gossip Girl or someone who should work in the SpaceX communications department and inform us when the rockets are being launched instead of the general public randomly discovering a rocket launch tear across the sky one evening as Twitter lights up with the news that aliens have finally invaded and human civilization will surely cease to exist.

Anyway, back to the Bird. OF COURSE when the Birds started popping up as proverbial late-night-pizza-induced zits on the face of my fair neighborhood, I immediately reached out to the Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD) to find out what was what. Here’s the response I received:

The Bird Scooters and their effects on the town are actually a Code Enforcement issue (not a PD one), but your readers can always check out our tips for alternative vehicle users on our website.

*Checks website.*

According to the NBPD, “Motorized scooters (electric or gas-powered) may be operated on public roadways without registration or insurance as long as they are either in a marked bike lane or on a street with a speed limit of 25 MPH of slower.”

For those of you wondering, these are the official laws and regulations relating to motorized (electric or gas-powered) scooters:

  • DUI Regulations apply to motorized scooters
  • Lights are required during darkness
  • Required use of marked Bike Lane
  • Restricted to streets limited to 25 MPH or slower
  • Bicycle helmet required
  • Valid Driver’s License or Permit required
  • May not ride on sidewalk
  • May not exceed 15 MPH
  • May not operate on Boardwalk

OK, so those are the rules. What remains to be seen is if they’ll be strictly enforced. And for those seeking additional information on this shrewd scooter company, let me elucidate. VanderZanden started Bird in 2017 after a previous stint as chief operating officer at Lyft and before that as vice president of international growth at Uber. (Ugh, he’s experienced. Great.) In June, Bloomberg reported the company was raising $150 million with terms “that will value the company at $1 billion.”

Honestly, it doesn’t matter what the business is worth. When piles of Birds are left abandoned on the sidewalks, porches, lawns and streets of Balboa Peninsula, nobody is going to care how rich the CEO is from these dark contraptions.