When I was down at Venice Beach for the Venice Art Walk, I couldn’t help but notice the latest sight on the scene.  Venice has gotten the bird.  And if you are visiting Venice, you will want to take a Bird for a spin on the Venice Boardwalk!

Bird
A Bird Scooter waiting for its next passenger on the Venice Boardwalk

Anywhere I looked there were small electric scooters casually abandoned on the street, the sidewalks and the boardwalk. Like whoever was riding it got to where they were going and just got off and left it right there.

That’s exactly what is suppose to happen.  Unlike the bike racks where you must return a bicycle to the rack and lock it when you are finished, with the Bird Scooters you simply get off of it when you arrive at your destination at it locks itself up.  Someone else will be along soon enough wanting to use it, scan it with his app and take it to a new destination.

I had read about these and it sounded unworkable.  But seeing it in action in Venice, it works quite well… for the most part.  Venice is a active walkable community with enough people traveling short distances that there is always someone to come along and need the scooter again wherever it has been left.

Not everyone is happy with them though.  They do get left anywhere.  That is both the convenience and the problem.  I saw them sideways across sidewalks, blocking entrances to shops and such.  But no one seemed to mind much and most were brought off to the side at least.

Bird scooter
A Bird Scooter waits beside the bike path along Venice Beach

Others are concerned that they are taking business away from local bike rental shops and are causing safety hazards.  They do create one more method of transportation to watch out for in a town full equally fond of every form of alternative transportation as the automobile (i.e having to dodge skateboarders, rollerbladers, bicyclists, scooters and more all moving at different speeds).

A legal concern is that California law requires anyone operating a motorized scooter to have a valid driver’s license or instructional permit and to wear a helmet. State law also prohibits riders from abandoning motorized scooters on public property or in a way that impedes pedestrian traffic.

Both are constantly violated.  It’s too easy for an an unlicensed underaged teen to use the Bird scooters and, honestly if I was a teen I would use them all the time.  I also don’t think I saw any of the Bird riders wearing helmets.  Having to pack a helmet around destroys the convenience gained by picking up and leaving the scooters wherever you need to.

It’s enough of a concern that the City of Santa Monica has sued Bird, Inc. on charges of operating a commercial scooter rental business on the public right of way without a proper business license and failing to comply with administrative citations.

Perhaps in the more “city” parts of the Westend I can see the Bird Scooters being a problem.  But near the beaches and on the boardwalk they seem to fit right in with the beach town, bohemian lifestyle.  If you don’t like them, get used to them.  They won’t be going anywhere.  They are too loved.

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