Bird is a startup company now offering scooter-sharing in Baltimore. Individuals may use a mobile app to rent these electric vehicles for $1 and then pay 15 cents per minute thereafter. They are battery powered and a good option for those needing transportation for short distances. The scooters initially are in use throughout Harbor East, the Inner Harbor, and Fells Point areas; however, expansion is expected across the city. Bird recently has experienced difficulties with regulators involving their fleet in San Francisco, resulting in permitting requirements. Another concern is that a scooter-rider is very susceptible to injury when involved in even minor collisions.
Last year, Baltimore's Bike Share program encountered problems with theft, vandalism, and keeping up with repairs, which led local officials to temporarily suspend the program. Bird hopes to avoid such problems by retrieving their fleet each night for recharging, repairs, and safekeeping. The founders include some former managers from the ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber.
According to Bloomberg, Bird has secured financing of nearly $1 billion. The company hopes each scooter is rented roughly three times per day and is arranging financial arrangements with the local governments to assist with funding bicycle lanes and related infrastructure. Thus far, Baltimore city officials have been supportive. City spokesman German Virgil described the program as “technology to expand the transportation options.”
Accident Liability Concerns in Existing Markets
Bird is established in San Francisco and Los Angeles and encountered some displeasure from pedestrian advocacy groups and some residents with safety concerns. Bloomberg reported speaking with local personal injury attorneys who claim to have begun receiving some calls from people involved in scooter accidents. Riders must formally agree to use the scooters “at their own risk;” however, this may be insufficient to shield the company from potential acts of gross negligence.
Company Safety Guidelines
- Riding: If available, bike lanes should be used, or the area nearest to the curb. Scooters should not be operated on sidewalks unless allowed by local law and should not hinder movement of pedestrians.
- Parking: Use designated bike parking areas when possible and avoid blocking walkways and fire hydrants.
- Equipment: Bird provides free helmets upon request; riders simply must pay the shipping cost.
- Other: Renters must be 18 years old and possess a valid driver's license. Only one rider may use the vehicle at a time and traffic devices and signs should be acknowledged. The scooters have a maximum weight limit of 200 lbs.
Company Waiver of Liability Agreement
Bird's rental agreement contains varying language that redundantly emphasizes that riders are releasing the company from any potential liability associated with injuries, property damage, or losses. One provision explains that the company's total liability is limited to $100. Riders are assuming all risks and potential dangers. Bird also assumes no liability from damages that result from mechanical failures or malfunctions.
Maryland's Existing Scooter Laws
The state maintains fairly strict requirements compared too many other states for those operating scooters. Scooter riders must have a valid license and liability insurance. The scooters must be titled as other vehicles are. Operators must wear a helmet and eye protection is required when the scooter does not have a windscreen.
Potential Personal Injury Actions
Scooters have advantages over standard passenger vehicles such as a low purchase price, fuel savings, and their ability to park in tight spaces. In accidents, scooters do not afford the rider much protection from potentially serious injuries. Those injured in scooter accidents may pursue damages in personal injury actions and are encouraged to consult with an experienced attorney when doing so.