Banned in other cities, Bird electric scooters arrive in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — About a hundred Birds flocked to Kansas City. But these Birds don’t fly. They scoot.

The Los Angeles-based scooter rental company, Bird, lets users of their app find electric scooters near them, unlock them using the app, and pay as they go. It’s in more than 20 cities nationwide.

The company tracks the scooters using GPS, and pays designated “chargers” between $5 and $20 to pick up the scooters and charge them at home. Then they bring them to their “nests” scattered in downtown, the Crossroads, River Market and 18th and Vine.

For John Ruhlman, the flexibility and easy money of being a “charger” is appealing, and he and about 30 other people attended a launch event by the airport where they learned more about the company.

“I’m going to give it a shot,” said Ruhlman, who lives outside of Liberty. “I can make a little extra money, I don’t have to deal with other people and I have space in my garage… I can get up early and drop them off and get back home before the rush hour.”

But Birds haven’t been trouble free. The company has not yet gotten approval from the city to place its scooters in public areas like sidewalks around downtown. Cities like Denver and San Francisco have banned Bird, with critics saying that people often just leave the scooters wherever. There’s even a hashtag: #ScootersBehavingBadly.

Ruhlman said he hopes the city doesn’t immediately try to ban Bird after its launch locally.

“Do I do this once and the city is like, ‘Nope, you’re done’? I’ve got six of them to charge, so that’s $30.”

City spokesman Chris Hernandez sent this statement to The Star about Bird:

“The city supports innovation and transportation options, and we are having conversations with Bird to learn more about their plans for the Kansas City market. Since this is a transportation option that uses the public right of way and city infrastructure, we want to make sure we have a full understanding of how it works, which will help us determine how it fits into existing laws, and what revisions might be considered.”

Bird is known for taking a “beg forgiveness rather than ask permission” attitude in cities across the country, similar to Uber and other ride sharing companies when they first started.

“That’s the Silicon Valley way,” Ruhlman said.

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