For $24.99, a person can have an e-scooter delivered to them, and ride it for a month. For regular riders, it’s a more affordable option than renting one of the city’s shared e-scooters or taking most others modes of transportation. Bird is the first scooter company to launch such a program.
But Skip, one of Bird’s competitors that was granted a permit to operate shared e-scooters in San Francisco, is crying foul. The city hasn’t determined if the new program is legal.
“While we support all efforts to get more people out of cars and into the bike lane, subscription models designed to use loopholes in the system undermine the long term objectives of a sustainable micromobility system,” Skip CEO Sanjay Dastoor said in a statement.
Bird launched last spring in San Francisco without government approval, spurring complaints from residents. The government impounded improperly parked Bird scooters and issued violations before Bird removed its scooters a few months later as the city launched a sanctioned e-scooter program.
But those low marks may not hold it back from returning to the city.
Bird’s monthly rental program circumvents the caps placed by San Francisco and other cities by not offering a scooter that’s shared among multiple people. The new business model may allow Bird to grow faster if cities embrace it.
Scoot, a Bird rival that’s authorized to offer shared scooters in San Francisco, said it has no objection to Bird’s new program. Scoot expects there will be fewer problems with Bird’s scooters this time around.
“When someone is renting a scooter by the month, it’s practically like they own it. They’re going to take care of it,” CEO Michael Keating told CNN Business. “We need more human-scale mobility in San Francisco and every other city. If Bird can’t get the shared permit and wants to make it easier for someone to rent by month, more power to them.”
Bird told CNN Business it has a San Francisco business permit, and riders will be required to lock their scooter to a fixed object, like a bike rack, when parking outside. If a rental is damaged or needs repair, Bird will swap it out at no cost. Riders are responsible if damage is cosmetic, the result of vandalism or vehicle abuse, or results in total vehicle loss.
At $25 a month, Bird is likely to lose significant money on the unit economics.
“The price seems really, really low,” Keating said.
The company, which hasn’t said how many scooters will be in the program, sees monthly rentals as a way to provide an equitable and consistent daily commuting option for all.
Bird is also launching monthly rentals in Barcelona soon and may expand elsewhere. And competitors may follow.
The Micromobility Coalition, an industry trade group that counts Lime and Uber as members, said it believes cities should adopt policies that welcome monthly rentals to help get people out of cars, ease congestion and reduce emissions.