Bird scooters may be exploding in popularity, but an investigation by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) may clip the company’s wings.
At issue is the lack of brake lights and turn signals on Birds: both are required on motorized scooters according to state law. MassDOT is opening an official review of the matter, though it remains unclear when the investigation will wrap up or what possible consequences it may entail.
The on-demand shared transportation has quickly taken the country by storm. Activated by app, the dockless scooters can be found anywhere, and are then left behind at the end of a trip for the next rider to try. Cheap, easy, and fun, the rides are especially popular in college-crammed Boston and its surrounding neighborhoods.
But while its students may be on board with the rides, the city’s lawmakers are somewhat less smitten.
The Boston City Council voted last week to hold a hearing this fall on whether or not Bird scooters will be allowed in the city. Officials in nearby Cambridge have been far less lenient, accusing the company of acting as a street vendor without a permit. Similarly, neighboring town Somerville has already issued a cease-and-desist order to the company, arguing that Bird doesn’t have a license or any other authorization to operate in the area.
Indeed, it’s not the first time Bird scooters have ruffled feathers with politicians—or even neighborhood residents.
Several neighborhoods in San Diego—one of the first cities where the technology was introduced—have issued outright bans of the scooters, while business leaders have pleaded with the city council to limit where the rides can be left.
Despite the protests, however, the Bird scooters only grew in popularity in the West Coast town, and the San Diego City Council failed to endorse a measure that would have banned their presence from local boardwalks.
In Massachusetts, too, it seems resistance may be futile. Threats and official orders to halt operation of the vehicles have been duly ignored, as the scooters continue to fly freely across neighborhood lines.
It now lies with MassDOT to decide whether or not Bird scooters should be caged for good.