NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) — The cities of Virginia Beach and Norfolk are starting to play hardball with a scooter-sharing service that has been leaving its electric scooters all over both cities.
App-controlled scooters from Bird Rides Inc. began to pop up in Norfolk and Virginia Beach in late August, without the company obtaining the proper permits. Bird's approach to inundate a city of scooters with no warning is not new, and often leaves city officials quickly scrambling to pull the plug on the unauthorized service.
In a statement to 13News Now back in August, the company stated, "Bird has engaged with city officials and looks forward to working with them to create a regulatory framework that works for everyone."
But more than a month has passed and it does not appear Bird has been able to strike a deal with the two cities.
On Wednesday, Virginia Beach issued a memorandum directing police and Public Works to take action and begin impounding unattended motorized scooters. City code already prohibits motorized scooters in certain areas such as the Oceanfront Boardwalk or Town Center.
“We’ve got to be able to clear the public right of way and allow people to use the sidewalks and the bike paths that we’ve paid to have created,” said City Councilman John Uhrin.
However, there were dozens of scooters scattered throughout the Oceanfront, Thursday and people have mixed feelings about them.
Kathy and David Thompson were visiting Virginia Beach from Oklahoma City and were among the riders.
“I love them. We have ridden all around Virginia beach in the last two days,” said Thompson.” We could have never seen the things we’ve seen without these.”
But not everyone likes the scooters, like Virginia Beach local Zachary Clouse.
“I hate them,” said Clouse. “They're the most annoying thing in the world. There’s nobody maintaining them.”
Virginia Beach Police officers will also give citations to those who do not follow the rules. However, spokesperson Linda Kuehn said they will give a warning first and as of Thursday, had not given any citations.
Uhrin said the company Bird has not approached the city for an official business agreement but he said he’s not opposed to the idea.
“I’m always interested in talking to someone who’s got a creative way for increasing mobility throughout the city,” said Uhrin.
When asked for comment on the new Virginia Beach memorandum, the company did not reply at the time of publishing.
Meanwhile in Norfolk, city officials have been gathering up and impounding the scooters. As of Wednesday, a city spokeswoman said that 400 of the scooters have been "locked in a secure facility."
Both cities have said that if Bird wants their scooters back, the company will have to pay impound and storage fees on them.
The strategy to launch before a city grants approval mimics tactics that have previously been used by Uber and Lyft. For example, the two ride-sharing companies began operating in Nashville, Tennessee and built a user-base before the city approved regulations for the transportation niche in December 2014. The state authorized their services months later.
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