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Electric scooters are taking over U.S. cities. Fires, poop and bans are not stopping them

Pay-per-minute electric scooters deployed by companies such as Bird have prompted bans in some cities across the U.S., while in others critics are fighting back by burning and trashing the scooters - documented on BirdGraveyard on Instagram.
Pay-per-minute electric scooters deployed by companies such as Bird have prompted bans in some cities across the U.S., while in others critics are fighting back by burning and trashing the scooters - documented on BirdGraveyard on Instagram. Instagram

Pay-per-minute electric scooters and bikes, like those deployed by Bird, Lime and Spin across the United States, might seem like a sure-fire solution to getting around.

But many cities, fed up with unsafe riders and scooters abandoned on streets and sidewalks, are resorting to bans on the devices while they work out permit and safety rules.

And in California, some critics have taken to setting the scooters on fire, smearing them with poop and tossing them into the Pacific Ocean to register their distaste.

“They throw them everywhere: in the ocean, in the sand, in the trash can,” Robert Johnson Bey, a Venice Beach, California, maintenance worker, told the Los Angeles Times.

At least two Instagram pages, ScootersBehavingBadly and BirdGraveyard, have sprung up to document hatred of scooter sprawl. People submit photos and videos of vandalized scooters to BirdGraveyard, which has 29,000 followers.

Posts on the page show scooters being set on fire, buried at the beach, piled in trash cans, shoved into storm drains and left dangling from trees, lamp posts and even rooftops.

In San Francisco, some foes have resorted to smearing scooters with feces, cutting brake lines and covering up bar codes necessary to unlock the scooters, reports Motherboard.

“A lot of people hate these things,” Michael Ghadieh, owner of SF Wheels, which repairs the scooters for Bird, told the site. “I don’t get it. They physically want to damage them.”

Ghadieh said his shop repairs between 100 and 150 scooters a day, reported Motherboard.

But Los Angeles police say they’ve only received one report of scooter vandalism that resulted in an arrest, reported the Los Angeles Times. The district attorney’s office declined to prosecute.

Lt. Michael Soliman, who supervises the LAPD Pacific Division’s Venice Beach detail, told the publication his officers have seen scooters piled 10 feet high, but said they aren’t a high priority for law enforcement.

“If we have to prioritize the allocation of our time and resources, first and foremost we’re going to prioritize the preservation of life,” Soliman told the Times.

Bird, naturally, takes a dim view of people destroying its scooters.

“We do not support the vandalism or destruction of any property and are disappointed when it takes place,” Bird spokeswoman Mackenzie Long said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. “Nor do we support the encouragement, celebration or normalization of this behavior.”

Bird, based in Venice, California, operates rental scooters, which can reach speeds up to 15 mph, in 29 U.S. cities and Paris, France, according to its site.

An app directs customers to the nearest scooter, which can be unlocked by scanning a driver’s license and a bar code on the scooter, according to Fox News. Customers pay $1 to unlock the scooter, then 15 cents a minute until they finish their ride by again scanning the bar code.

But some cities have banned or restricted the scooters, particularly in cases where city officials accuse Bird or other companies of deploying them without first seeking permission.

Beverly Hills, California, banned the scooters for six months in July for doing so, reported KTTV.

“Just because you beg for forgiveness doesn’t mean that you get it,” Mayor Julian Gold said, according to the station. “And this is one where forgiveness is really not appropriate. Because what they did was really disgusting.”

Other cities such as West Hollywood, Seattle, Saint Paul, Nashville, Boston and Miami also have banned the scooters, reported Fox News.

In Denver, city workers impounded hundreds of the scooters, reported The Wall Street Journal. But the city later allowed a limited number back in under a pilot program, as have Portland, Oregon, and Salt Lake city, according to Fox News.

City leaders in Charleston, South Carolina, sent Bird a cease and desist letter demanding the company stop operating in the city without a license, reported The State.

In Kansas City, Missouri, officials struck a deal with Bird to allow a limited number of scooters there, but at least one shopping district has banned the devices, according to The Kansas City Star.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, electric scooters have been allowed under a pilot program, but the proliferation of scooters zipping around city streets has sparked safety concerns, reported The Charlotte Observer.

“Right now we’re being flexible and learning, and our message is that everyone should be practicing safety first,” Amy Mitchell of the city transportation department, told the publication.

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