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When I first heard about the Bird electric scooter system, I was intrigued. My biggest pet peeve, both as a commuter and as a tourist, is the incredible difficulty of getting from point A to point B effectively in big cities. Driving is expensive and inefficient, and walking takes too long, so we’re often left with public transport as the only viable option. If it’s a lucky day, the tram, bus, or metro is on time. Then I’d find myself squeezed into a mass of loud, smelly, stressed-out commuters. And there always seems to be some kind of construction or accident making it run late.
Then there’s Uber, which is very costly and often ends up taking inefficient ways to the destination. And traffic jams and gridlock always tend to happen at the worst possible times. So you’re stuck, seeing all the potential paths you could have taken, and you see people on bikes or foot taking various shortcuts.
When I saw these electric scooters popping up all over American and European cities, I was so thrilled. I could finally get to my destination fast and on my conditions. And I didn’t have to buy anything and risk having it stolen or vandalized. This is now a booming business, and Bird is one of the biggest names.
The Bird Electric Scooter Service
The Bird electric scooter program is kind of like a bike rental service except that it is an electric scooter and you do not have to return it to a specific place. Also, it is really cheap with a small base fee and then a few cents per minute. The main advantage that sets the Bird electric scooter system apart from other rideshare programs is that there’s no fixed dock where you need to go to start your ride.
How it works
Bird scooters are spread out all over the place, and you can pick one up wherever you find it. The best place to look, however, is what people call a “Bird nest.” Each Bird electric scooter gets a recharge every night before returning to the streets. The team has figured out popular key spots where many morning commutes begin, and they made a routine out of placing clusters of three scooters at each one in the morning.
At night, so-called Bird hunters go around collecting scooters and recharging them, usually at home. In the early morning, they return the recharged scooters to the city streets. The instructions specify to leave them in groups of three. So if you ever see three Bird electric scooters parked together, remember the spot because that’s where you’ll be likely to find them at other times as well. That can help you save time in the morning when lots and lots of people are looking for a quick way to their jobs. The popularity of the Bird electric scooter is only growing, and supply is limited.
The Bird app will show you a map where you can see the location of available scooters in relation to your location, as well as their battery levels. This GPS tracking means it’s always easy to find a Bird electric scooter and to know if there are none around so you can go right for another option without wasting time.
You can also reserve a scooter in advance so that nobody else can activate it while you need it.
Using a Bird Electric Scooter
Once you’ve located a Bird electric scooter, using it is very simple. You unlock it with the app, simply scan the QR code or push the “unlock” button. The app will charge you the base fee, and the price keeps increasing for each minute you ride. Next, get on the scooter and kick off a few times in the usual fashion. Once you’ve built up momentum, push the throttle button on the right-hand part of the handlebar. This starts the motor, and you can stop kicking.
Riding the scooter
Riding the Bird is easy, comfortable, and quite fun. Steering works like any other scooter, and there’s a brake handle on the left side of the handlebar, like on a bike. Keep your hand on the brake and ready to squeeze in case a person or vehicle crosses your path without warning.
These things aren’t all that fast, the max speed is 15 miles per hour, although they may be a bit faster when you go downhill. While it’s nice to try and get to your destination as fast as possible, it’s best to slow down if you’re dealing with bumpy, cracked, or uneven ground. Electric scooters aren’t built for offroad use, so think before you hurt yourself or the scooter.
Now, the regulations for electric scooters are stricter than many would assume. First of all, you need to wear a helmet. That is something you have to bring yourself, but you can order one from Bird for free. Furthermore, you must not ride on the sidewalks. It’s both illegal and very inconsiderate and annoying. Stick to bike lanes whenever possible, and when there isn’t one, you must stay to the right side of the driving lane. Learning more about e-scooter safety is important.
When it comes to parking, the same rules and conventions as bicycles apply. Be nice and don’t park where people need to walk or drive. Use a bike rack if possible. If you’re done with your Bird electric scooter, just bring out the app again and tap the “lock” button.
The biggest problem with Bird e-scooters is that it can be hard to find them. There’s a pretty small number of scooters available, and they’re really popular. Another problematic result is that if you look for a scooter later in the day, they may all be far away or low on battery or both. Let’s face it, having to walk several blocks to start your ride kind of ruins the idea of electric scooter travel.
This has led to yet another symptom of the issue. Some selfish individuals try to hide scooters at home or work so that only they can use them. Sometimes you’ll see a scooter on the map that you can’t get to because it’s locked away.
How Bird Electric Scooter Compares
We’ve analyzed and compared some reviews and articles to determine how well Bird competes against other e-scooter programs and one bike rental service.
Lime electric scooter
Lime-S is the new scooter service from LimeBike, famous for their bicycle rideshare service. The practicality of having the two options together like this is a nice plus. The cost of using the Lime e-scooter service is the same as Bird electric scooter cost. Same rates and base fee. However, Lime requires that you spend a few bucks before you can get a helmet. Bird only requires you to start using the service. On the other hand, Lime gives you ride credit for referring new customers to their scooter program.
Finding and unlocking a Lime scooter also works the same way as it does with Bird scooters. One notable difference is that the app shows estimated ride ranges rather than battery levels. So you know about how far a low-energy scooter will take you.
The scooter itself is not as sleek as the Bird electric scooter. And despite the clunky design, it doesn’t seem to perform any better. In fact, it has a lower top speed and has a harder time going uphill. While the shocks look impressive, the riding experience isn’t that smooth. You will feel even small bumps and cracks in the street or pavement, and the overall handling can feel somewhat unstable at times.
This is, most likely, all due to the narrow plastic wheels. They just don’t provide the benefits that have made wider rubber wheels the standard. On the plus side, Uber recently decided to take over the program. So you can expect to see great increases in convenience and availability shortly, perhaps even using one app for both services.
Spin electric scooter
An early pioneer of the electric scooter rideshare concept, Spin is another great option for people on the go. Thanks to the tight competition, Spin charges the same price as Bird and Lime. First of all, there aren’t very many scooters under this program, compared to Bird and Lime.
The Spin electric scooter is the same model as the Bird electric scooter. It has the same lights, controls, and other features. Only the paint job sets them apart, Spin being orange while Bird is black. Just like Bird, Spin provides a smooth ride on a well-designed scooter.
There’s not much else to say; the two services are identical and interchangeable when it comes to the riding experience. Even the apps only have superficial differences.
Due to the extreme similarities between all relevant e-scooter services, and close competition with bicycle rideshares, it’s good to compare the Bird electric scooter service with a well-established bike equivalent.
Renting a Jump bike costs a little bit more, although the price is still low. The initial fee gives you 30 minutes of biking without additional costs. Unused minutes do not carry over to future rides, however. If your ride exceeds the allotted 30 minutes, you’ll pay an additional seven cents per extra minute.
If you park the bike outside the system’s boundaries, you’ll have to pay a $25 fee. You can avoid this by putting the bike on HOLD while outside the boundaries, but the price meter will keep going. Jump DC network users get $1 credit rewards for picking up scooters outside hubs and returning them to hubs. There are also a number of penalty fees for incorrect use such as improper parking and locking of Jump bikes.
Ease of use
Unlocking a Jump bike is a bit more complicated. You can reserve a bike using the app just like you would a Bird electric scooter. Or you can walk up to a free Jump bike and type in your account number followed by your pin. This can be rather inconvenient, but it’s the only learning curve.
Electric bikes are a real joy to ride in general. You have more control on a bike than you do a scooter. And, unless you have lower back problems, you’ll find it much more comfortable to sit on a cushy seat than to stand with an uneven posture on a scooter footboard.
The big wheels with rubber tires reduce how much you feel tram tracks, cracks, and bumps in the road and they help you get to your location faster. Not only do you save time, but you make sure that you don’t have to pay more than necessary for your journey. The maximum speed is 19 miles per hour. The electric motor makes going uphill easy and takes the struggle out of biking.
Bird Electric Scooter Pros and Cons
Let’s summarize these insights about the Bird electric scooter program’s strengths and drawbacks with a simple pros and cons list.
- Great quality of scooters
- Smooth, stable rides
- Plentiful compared to many competitors
- Very affordable
When it comes to its build quality and comfort, Bird scooters stand out. If your situation calls for an electric scooter, Bird is an excellent choice.
- Supply doesn’t always meet demand
- Not as fast as a bike
- Not as comfortable as a bike
You could say that Bird has become a victim of its own popularity, as there’s not always enough scooters to go around. Other than that, the limits of the scooter format itself are the only concerns.
It’s hard to beat the convenience of strategically placed, GPS-tracked electric scooters. Affordable rates and a low environmental impact make them much more favorable than cars and buses for inner-city transport. And if the weather is good, it’s a more pleasant riding experience as well. However, the opposite is true if it’s raining or snowing.
While they’re not as fast or comfortable as electric bikes, they are more convenient. If you haven’t tried a Bird electric scooter yet, we recommend giving it a try.