A man rides a Bird dockless electric scooter along Fifth Street in April of 2018. The company was ordered to remove its scooters from San Francisco streets in June of that year, and later denied a permit to rent scooters in The City. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Bird scooters return to SF with monthly rentals

E-scooter company was kicked off city streets last summer after it launched without a permit

Bird e-scooters are back — but local lawmakers aren’t sure if the company’s deployment is legal.

One of the three companies that infamously first launched rentable e-scooters in San Francisco last year has brought its two-wheelers back to The City.

That first launch last March, done without a permit, caused an uproar, a spike of complaints to 311, and ultimately resulted in The City Attorney’s Office ordering them off the streets.

Exclusive permits to operate in San Francisco were eventually awarded to companies Scoot and Skip — no Birds allowed.

Now, it seems, the company has found a workaround.

Instead of deploying its electric scooters on San Francisco streets, it will deliver them to riders directly in a subscription-based service for $24.99 a month, according to a Bird press statement.

“Renting a Bird for an entire month of unlimited use will cost less than just a couple of ride hail trips or parking garage days in most cities,” said Travis VanderZanden, Bird founder and CEO, in a statement. “With personal rentals, we are providing greater access to a sustainable form of transportation that people can depend upon for more affordable and convenient daily commuting needs.”

Though VanderZanden struck an upbeat note, it is still unclear if this workaround is legal.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which permits e-scooters to operate in The City, has not yet made a determination. Nor has The City Attorney’s Office.

“We’re evaluating this new service to see if it complies with state and local laws,” said John Cote, a City Attorney’s Office spokesperson, in a statement.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said “we learned about this new program today, and are going to get more details to determine whether or not it complies with existing regulations.”

Just 1,250 rentable e-scooters are available in The City right now from Scoot and Skip in what SFMTA calls its Powered Scooter Pilot Program, which is slated to end later this year, at which point other scooter companies are expected to apply for permits to operate in San Francisco.

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