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Scooter share program launch crashes in St. Louis

Bird electric scooters.  July 2018
Provided | Bird
Bird, an electric scooter share program that launched Thursday morning in St. Louis, is temporarily on hold. According to the city of St. Louis officials, the company dropped off scooters throughout St. Louis without a permit from the city.

Updated July 19 at 11 p.m. with a comment from Bird — Some St. Louisans might have noticed motorized scooters around the city on Thursday morning. Bird, a low-cost, electric vehicle sharing company, launched the scooter share program this week.

The problem is the company didn’t notify anyone in the city.

According to city officials, Bird dropped off scooters at several locations in St. Louis without the approval or knowledge of the city.

Deanna Venker, the city’s commissioner of traffic, said Bird doesn’t have a permit to operate its business in the city. She said the city has been in contact with the company, but in the meantime the scooter sharing program has been put on hold.

“We’ve asked Bird to remove them from our premises,” Venker said. “They have until the end of the day to do so until they receive their permit and business license.”

Bird has agreed to remove all scooters from the city until they are added to St. Louis' dockless vehicle program, according to a statement emailed Thursday evening by a Bird spokesperson. "We are in close communication with local officials and are working together on our permit application, and we look forward to relaunching in St. Louis next week," the spokesperson wrote. 

Bird allows users to download an app so that riders can pay to use a scooter to get to their destination. Riders must pay $1 to start and an additional 15 cents per minute. The scooter’s top speed is 15 mph and can last roughly 15 miles on a full charge. The company said it’s operating in 20 cities nationwide.

Bird announced on Thursday morning that it had placed the dock-free scooters in several St. Louis neighborhoods including Downtown, Fairground Park, Old North St. Louis, O’Fallon Park and Soulard.

This year, the bike share program LimeBike came to St. Louis. LimeBike is also in the process of rolling out scooters. Venker said while Bird’s introduction to St. Louis had a rough start, the city is open to having Bird help residents with their commute.

“We’re not wanting to burn bridges here, because I think this program can be very successful,” Venker said. “We just need to … get them back on track so that they understand we have rules and regulations and we’re going to follow them.”

A Bird spokesperson said the company has turned in paperwork. In a statement, the company said it's “working closely with the city.”

Follow Marissanne on Twitter: @Marissanne2011

Marissanne is the afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.

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