Norfolk plans to crack down on Bird scooters.
More than 400 Bird scooters have been confiscated by Norfolk city officials and are currently being held in lockup.
Dozens of the dockless electric scooters suddenly appeared on sidewalks around the city in late August, surprising city officials. The city has been confiscating the scooters ever since. With it now being over a month since the scooters were first distributed around the city without permits, Norfolk says it's starting to crack down on Bird scooters, issuing mandates to public employees to begin impounding them.
Bird and similar companies famously prefer to debut in new cities with "pop-up tours," spontaneously depositing dozens of scooters in busy urban locations without warning, much to the ire of city officials. While the strategy is a controversial one, it always makes headlines.
The scooters can be unlocked with a mobile phone app for $1, with rides costing $0.15 per minute. The scooters can travel up to 15 miles an hour.
The company has a well-documented history of conflict with city governments for recurringly failing to obtain proper permits before distributing Bird scooters, even getting itself banned from some cities.
Norfolk City officials say it's not that they're opposed to the scooters; they just want Bird to follow the rules.
"Bird did not communicate, coordinate or provide any notice before dropping scooters in Norfolk,” city spokesperson Lori Crouch said of the company's launch.
"We welcome all kinds of innovative transportation options," Crouch continued. "A scooter is an innovative transportation way to get around, but we would say before you put things in our right of way that you work with us first so we can make sure that's done appropriately and properly."
City Council member Andrea McClellan tweeted that it was "a bad move by Bird."
"I’ve seen these Bird scooters littering the streets all over LA this summer," the tweet says. "Whether or not
@NorfolkVA allows them in the future, this in-the-middle-of-the-night approach is totally unacceptable and does not make me inclined to support this company."
Company spokespeople for Bird told the Virginian-Pilot that the company has been in contact with city officials to “create a regulatory framework that works for everyone.”
However, city spokesperson Lori Crouch says that's not happening. Crouch says Norfolk officials have "unsuccessfully attempted to schedule meetings with Bird." She says that until the city can speak with someone at Bird, the scooters will remain in lockup and continue to be confiscated from streets.
Courtesy of Steve Earley/The Virginian-Pilot
Despite the bureaucratic conflict, Hampton Roads residents aren't too upset about the scooters. In fact, they're pretty popular. Adrian Dacensio found a Bird scooter that had not been confiscated and took it for a joyride. He says he's a fan.
"It’s much faster than taking the bus or walking,” Dacensio said, gripping the handlebars. “And plus, it’s a much cooler way to get around when it’s hot."
Recently, Bird told its registered users in an email to contact Mayor Kenny Alexander and Norfolk City Council member Andrea McClellan to advocate on the company's behalf.
"The City of Norfolk is having discussions regarding the use of dockless scooters in the city," Bird's message said. "Let them know that you support Bird in Norfolk as an affordable, eco-friendly transportation option to get around the city without having to worry about traffic or parking."
Do you support Bird scooters? Let us know what you think. And if you've seen a photo of a Bird scooter lying around that hasn't been confiscated, send us a photo on social media.