Futuristic forecasters will tell you that we are in the early stages of a micro-mobility revolution, one that will result in a wave of new electric vehicles appearing on city streets in the coming years as people look for convenient alternatives to automobiles.
Many of those same experts believe 2018 was the year of the electric scooter. Will 2019 will be the year of a new vehicle known as the Bird Crusier?
This week, the e-scooter giant — which operates in more than 100 cities around the globe — unveiled the latest addition to its growing fleet: a seated electric vehicle that can accommodate up to two adults, which will be released in certain cities beginning this summer, according to the company.
“Bird’s introduction of shared e-scooters spurred a global phenomenon and mode shift away from cars,” Travis VanderZanden, founder and CEO of Bird, said in a statement posted online. “To further accelerate progress on our mission to make cities more livable, we are providing additional environmentally friendly micro-mobility alternatives — including Bird Cruiser.
“Starting this summer, people can move about their city and explore new neighborhoods together, without a car,” the statement added, noting the vehicle was designed and engineered in California,.
Resembling a hybrid between a heavy-duty dirt bike and a slimmed down moped, the Bird Cruiser includes hydraulic disc brakes, a 52V battery and a LCD Matrix Display that will presumably contain information about power usage and speed.
The vehicle’s flat, rectangular seat will be padded, the company says, and include either a pedal-assist or peg depending on rider preference. The company did not reveal which cities the vehicle will be released in, how much a ride will cost or what speed it’s capable of reaching. The company’s scooters can go more than 15 mph, but have their speed tailored to local guidelines.
Licensing requirements for e-bikes vary by state and generally depend on whether the bike has a throttle and can reach certain speeds.
Reached by email, Bird said that licensing for the Cruiser will depend on how local jurisdictions classify the vehicle. In places where Bird Cruiser is classified as an e-bike, the company said, state law does not generally require riders to have a driver’s license. Where it is classified as a motorized scooter, however, a driver’s license is required.
Since its launch in late 2017, Bird has charged $1 to unlock its scooter, plus 15 cents per minute of riding, though that price was recently raised as high as 33 cents per minute in some cities and lowered to as low as 10 cents in others.
Bird is not the first tech-savvy transportation company to expand its portfolio of mobility options. Both Uber and Lyft offer users access to vehicles, scooters and bicycles through their apps.
As Bird expanded rapidly across the country in 2018, their scooters — as well as those belonging to several other companies — were linked to an dramatic increase in severe injuries among riders, many of whom accused the company of improperly maintaining their devices. The company relied on amateur mechanics trained using YouTube videos to maintain their e-scooter fleets around the country last year, but has not released any details about how the Bird Cruiser will be maintained and repaired.
This week, Consumer Reports confirmed that eight deaths and at least 1,500 injuries have been tied to electric scooters since the fall of 2017.
Dozens of state legislatures have introduced bills that seek to regulate the multi-billion dollar industry, but a recent Consumer Reports survey suggests that riders remain confused about which traffic laws to follow.