Bird scooters Baxter and UGA sign

Three bird scooters parked on the corner of Church and Baxter street in Athens, Ga on Aug. 26, 2018. 

Bird scooters flock to Athens and many ruffled feathers followed. Bird scooters, originally headquartered in Santa Monica, provide scooters that one rents through a smart phone app of the same name. While convenient, Bird scooters offer more than easy transportation: injuries, city-wide annoyances and disorganization plague the city since Bird scooters migrated to Athens.

Despite the scooter company’s recommendation to wear a helmet, the nature of the scooters contradicts the advice. Riders find scooters on sidewalks, street corners, abandoned outside train stations; unless a pedestrian carries a helmet with them everywhere they go, the likelihood of anyone riding a Bird actually wearing a helmet remains slim. The safety instructions also advise riders to use caution and to follow road rules, but since Bird affords city officials little time to adjust to the new vehicles, transgressions often go unpunished or unnoticed.

Santa Monica sued the scooter company for operating a business without proper city authorization. Other cities, like Nashville, followed suit. City officials lack the time and space to make the adjustments and safety precautions, such as creating laws for rentable scooters without a dock, which leads to disorganization. When a rider leaves a Bird in the middle of a sidewalk, obstructing pedestrian traffic, neither the company nor the government takes responsibility for it.

Left unguarded, Bird scooters hold the possibility of cluttering up Athens as they have major metropolitan cities. Bird aims to make its product accessible, which inevitably translates to a multitude of scooters so that they populate varying areas. More birds mean more excrement and waste on the sidewalks, and the scooters’ founder named them well if he aimed to describe the eyesore the scooters provide.

More than an eyesore, leaving Birds discarded creates traffic hazards and potential obstacles for disabled people. While many can simply walk around a scooter left on a sidewalk, those in wheelchairs or using other mobility-helping devices haven’t the luxury of walking around the scooters. Without a proper place to dock them, riders tend to leave the scooters wherever they can, with little thought to the potential affect.

Bird’s company will leave Athens anything but soaring; if Athens is to remain a safe and organized city, residents should insist Bird scooters take flight. Infrastructural problems associated with the scooters are for the birds; keep Athens Bird-less, and we won’t be pigeonholed as too chicken to face a problem easily-solved.  

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