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Bird Rides Clear Winner in Settlement Agreement

By Harriet P. Epstein

Even though Bird scooters continue to violate State and Santa Monica laws, the City has dropped its criminal charges against the company and CEO Travis VanderZanden, save one minor infraction carrying a $200 fine ("Bird Rides Agrees to ‘No Contest’ Plea, More Than $300,000 in Fines in Santa Monica Case," February 15, 2018).

A court date this Monday will make it official.

The question remains: Why is the City giving up its most potent leverage against Bird Rides, Inc?

Despite the City's stated requirement that the scooters be parked on private property, in flagrant abuse, they are abandoned every which way on public sidewalks, streets and parks.

The company has refused to sign an agreement drafted by the City that would insure scooter riders would adhere to laws that protect themselves and pedestrians.

Among other things, the unsigned agreement called for "Providing accurate information on rules of the road and safety regulations to all Scooter users via the company's mobile application and posted via a decal (Safety Decal) directly on the Scooter, including driver's license requirements, age requirements, safety requirements (e.g. mandatory use of helmets, no more than one rider per Scooter, lights during darkness, no riding on sidewalks) and parking requirements (no parking on the public right of way) or in a manner that obstructs pedestrian/ADA path of travel)."

Bird Rides gets to have it both ways. It is released from criminal charges and yet refuses to be bound by sensible rules in order to obtain a business license to legally operate in Santa Monica.

The fight over licensing requirements can go on indefinitely while the scooters continue to ride roughshod over safety laws. Meanwhile, Bird Rides has a record cleared of criminal charges so that it can pursue investors to expand its business. In direct contradiction of the truth, its spokesman Marcus Reese posted a statement that the company was "pleased" to be "able to work out our differences regarding licensure."

Those differences remain. Bird Rides wants to tap the profitable Santa Monica market, but not play by City rules.

For five months the City allowed the scooters to continue and spread without effectively reining in despite clear violations of law and pedestrian rights. The criminal complaint was supposed to address the company's past violations. The licensing agreement was supposed to set out the arrangement for continued business in the city. Why did the City drop one before the other was agreed to?

The score stands: Bird-1, Santa Monica-0.

The scooters do not ease traffic congestion. They do not replace cars. If anything, they improperly add congestion to sidewalks filled with walkers, baby carriages, skateboards, wheelchairs and bicycles.

Advocates claim scooters provide "last mile transportation" from the Expo station. Who was the last person in a business suit seen on a scooter? What motorized scooters most likely replace is walking and that's an exercise that is actually good for you.

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