Two years ago the e-scooter company Bird launched in Santa Monica.
Now the buzzy little dockless two-wheelers are in 100 cities and counting. And along the way have aroused delight and fury.
Critics see Bird and its rivals as VC fueled tech start-ups invading civic space.
The company has countered that it offers a sustainable alternative to the car that should be embraced by cities that say they want to reduce their carbon footprint.
Well, now even the sustainability argument has been rejected by critics in a number of recent articles.
DnA sat down with Melinda Hanson, head of sustainability at Bird.
“My responsibility at the company is to really understand the role that electric scooters can play in helping cities to decarbonise and reach their climate goals and also understanding what our environmental impact is as a company and doing everything that we can to be as environmentally responsible and sustainable as possible,” Hanson said.
Bird is rolling out a new version of the e-scooter, dubbed Bird Two. It’s a sleek, silver scooter with no exposed wires or screws (to prevent vandalism) and a motorcycle-style kickstand to keep them standing upright. The scooters are designed in-house, but they will be fabricated in Asia.
Hanson says the company is trying to improve accessibility to Bird scooters, “including discount programs for folks who are on government assistance programs.”
So why is Bird, and why are e-scooters more broadly, being singled out for criticism?
“I think that people are very interested in scooters,and scooters are being held to a standard that is completely unprecedented across the transport space, across the sustainability space, and across the tech space. I think there's a fascination with them; they're so visible,” Hanson said.
“So people are putting the blame on scooters, I think, because they are a new mode of transportation. But once they become part of the transport system even more it will be something that people realize the value of it, and embrace it even further.”