By Sam Catanzaro
With four major scooter companies on the Westside, it is easy to forget that before Jump, before Lyft and before Lime, Birds were the only e-scooter in Venice Beach. Now the transportation company, which some have valued as being worth over a billion dollars, is offering an e-scooter for private ownership to go alongside Bird’s fleet of rental scooters. As the company is looking to expand, however, local lawmakers are exploring further regulation.
Bird One, which was announced by the company on Wednesday, is priced at $1,299 and has a range of 30 miles per charge. Bird One will also be available for people to ride as part of Bird’s shared fleet of e-scooters starting May 8. In a statement announcing the scooter’s arrival, Bird Founder and CEO Travis VanderZanden, touted Bird One as the company’s most durable scooter
“Nearly two years ago, we launched our sharing business with retail, consumer e-scooters that lasted about three months in the sharing environment,” VanderZanden said. “[Bird One] is forecasted to last in the sharing environment for well over a year. Given the excitement and demand for our next generation e-scooter, we are also making a limited supply of Bird Ones available to own.
Bird One scooters will be available in three colors: black, white and rose. Devices will be delivered in the U.S. in the summer and people who purchase Bird Ones will be given $100 in credit to use on Bird rental devices.
While it is unclear how many people will purchase these devices, the rollout of Bird Ones in the rental market will begin in Los Angeles, and therefore many are expected to be seen zipping in and around Venice Beach, but riders of these devices — whether a rental or their own — should be wary of where they are riding.
In an April 16 Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) meeting, a motion was passed unanimously that calls upon the City of Los Angeles to enforce existing regulations to keep all motorized vehicles off of the Bike Path and the Boardwalk.
The illegal riding of Bird scooters is not the only aspect of these devices that local lawmakers are looking to regulate. In a separate motion passed on the 16th, the VNC calls on the City to add a requirement that anyone charging e-scooters show proof of a valid Department of Water and Power (DWP) utility bill in their name, or written permission from the owner or landlord of their residence.
“A utility bill in the name of an apartment owner would require a letter of approval from owner whose name the bill is addressed to before apartment renter can participate in the charging program,” reads the motion, which was sent to Councilmember Mike Bonin, Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Coastal Commission and LADOT. “Individuals or businesses without a utility bill in their name at a valid Los Angeles City address shall be prohibited from participating in the charging program.”
The VNC also in the motion called for designated parking zones for scooters and modifications to the devices that will render the scooters inoperable on public right of ways, including bike paths.
Another concern of lawmakers is the safety of these devices. According to a recent study by the Austin Public Health Department, half of the injuries in a two-month period involving e-scooters were categorized as severe.
These findings are similar to a January 2019 UCLA study that shed light on the dangers of e-scooter crashes.
According to the researchers, people involved in e-scooter accidents are often injured seriously enough — from fractures, dislocated joints and head trauma — to require treatment in emergency rooms.
“We’ve seen teeth knocked out, jaws broken in several places, noses crushed and head injuries including skull fractures. The most common injuries are wrist, ankle, collarbone and shoulder fractures,” said Dr. Wally Ghurabi, medical director of the Nethercutt Emergency Center at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica.
The researchers examined data from 249 people who were treated at the emergency departments of UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center between Sept. 1, 2017, and Aug. 31, 2018. The study found that about one-third of them arrived by ambulance, an indication of the severity of their injuries.
The Austin study, unlike the UCLA study, offers richer insight into scooter crashes because the researchers interviewed riders who were involved in crashes. One-third of riders were injured during their first ever ride on these devices. 38 percent said they would use a scooter again and One-third said they received zero training on how to operate the scooter before riding it.