Bird is gone, but scooters will be back in Columbia soon, city says

Bird's scooters may be gone from Columbia's streets, but a new option will be arriving soon.
A Bird Scooter sits on the sidewalk at the start of September. All Bird scooters were removed from Columbia on Nov. 20. Photo by Photographer Teddy Maiorca

On the morning of Nov. 20, authorized chargers for Bird in Columbia received an unexpected email: the company's scooter fleet would be gone at the end of that week.

"We've had an amazing ride in Columbia over the past year," said a copy of Bird's email obtained by The Maneater.

After thanking the chargers for their role in the scooter program's success, the company informed them that their services would no longer be necessary after Nov. 22.

"Unfortunately, due to regulations on e-scooter providers, we will be pausing operations in the city until circumstances improve," the email said.

Bird and Lime, another scooter provider, had been in negotiations with the city of Columbia and MU over regulations since their first arrival. Last year, after the city and MU passed a series of regulations, both companies withdrew their scooter fleets shortly before students left for winter break. When the weather warmed, Bird returned but Lime did not.

At the time of Bird's return, Bird spokesperson Rachel Bankston said that the company had always intended to return to Columbia when the weather made it possible to do so. Now it seems the city and MU are not giving them the choice to stay.

The same day that Bird informed their chargers of the impending departure, the city of Columbia made an announcement.

"Effective Nov. 20, 2019, no scooter companies are licensed to operate in Columbia," the city said through their website.

The announcement went on to say the city and MU are working together to find a single provider for scooter and bike rentals that they can develop a contract with. No target date is set for a company to be chosen or for services to begin.

The use of a single vendor for scooters and bikes has been under discussion before Bird came to Columbia last year, said Solomon Davis, chair of the Missouri Student Association Senate’s External Affairs Committee. Davis set up meetings between MU, the city and scooter companies. One company even came to Columbia to pitch their services.

“And then Bird came to town and the game changed,” Davis said. “The city had no choice, basically, but to put in a process for companies to operate.”

Now, the plan is to return to negotiations with companies that can be contracted to provide the services MU and the city are looking for.

Some students are sad to see Bird go, but hope that the new provider will make some positive changes.

"Birds were pretty convenient for a lot of people," junior Nate Marcus said. "I did not use them much because I was scared of getting hurt. Maybe the new program will be safer."

As for Bird, they have not ruled out returning to Columbia if the city and MU will allow them to.

"While the city's pilot has come to an end, we look forward to working collaboratively with the city and the university to develop a more permanent mobility option that continues to offer a sustainable transportation solution for the entire community," Bird spokesperson Debbie Bass said in an email.

Edited by Alex Fulton | afulton@themaneater.com

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