Lani Says: Surfin’ Bird – Bird Is the Word

2019 Editions January Lani Tunzi

Birds – rentable, dockless, electric scooters -– have descended upon Eagle Rock. They dot sidewalks, rest on corners and tend to congregate at the intersection of Colorado Blvd. and Eagle Rock Blvd. when they’re not scattered along residential streets.

They’re reasonably inexpensive and convenient. You use a downloadable phone app to find and rent a Bird ($1, plus 15-cents/minute) and when you get to where you’re going, you end the ride on the app, the scooter locks, and you leave it where it is, for the next person to find and rent.

As is often the case with things that are new and different, these chirping scooters have sparked controversy. Some riders leave the Birds where they hinder traffic or block parking spots, leading to objections based on safety and convenience. New regulations approved last September by the L.A. City Council impose rules about how users must store Birds and how electric scooter rental companies must remove scooters that are blocking sidewalks and driveways. The rules should help. Common courtesy would also go a long way.

Another criticism is that Birds are too fast – up to about 15 mph. That’s too fast on a sidewalk, though riding an electric scooter on the sidewalk is illegal. So the valid criticism would be against people who illegally ride on the sidewalk.

Is 15 mph too fast on the street? The law says you need to be age 18 and have a drivers license to operate an electric scooter, so 15 mph wouldn’t seem to be too fast for those riders. If riders under age 18 manage to rent an electric scooter – and a lot of riders I’ve seen don’t look like adults – then safety, which is always an issue, becomes an even bigger concern.

Helmets are another issue: State law says that wearing a helmet on an electric scooter is optional for anyone over 18. Please, wear a helmet.

The Bird company– founded by Travis VanderZanden, a former Uber and Lyft executive, says that Birds benefit the environment by easing traffic congestion, reducing pollution and encouraging clean, car-free alternatives. Similar statements are made by other companies in the electric scooter business, including Lime, Jump (which is part of Uber), Lyft and Razor. The electric scooter companies also create extra-money jobs for independent contractors who pick up abandoned scooters, re-charge them overnight, and then set them out where they can be picked up by riders in the morning.

Birds are becoming part of the transportation eco-system. That means all parts of the system are having to adapt. Controversy is inevitable, but so is change.

Lani Tunzi is in the 11th grade at Eagle Rock High School.

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