Scooter company continues to operate without a license

Bird electric scooter rentals

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Scooter rental company Bird has operated in the city of Columbia without a business license for the past three weeks.

City officials said banning the scooters is not their next step, but they are actively trying to strategize a plan for what's next.

Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp said the scooter company could be in violation of ordinances.

"There are any number of ordinances that could potentially be in violation," Trapp said. "I'm not a fan of that business model of ask for forgiveness, instead of permission to come in and start operating."

Attorney Bogdan Susan said the marketing tactic is called 'guerilla marketing.' He pointed out it's the same marketing tool Uber used.

However, Bird might have a stronger need for a license before operating.

"Now with the Bird scooter, it's different because they are actually providing an actual vehicle to be driven, so there's probably a stronger argument that they need to have a business license," Susan said.

Bird's issue can also be complicated in regard to injury or damage, Susan said. It can be a matter of which insurance to use — auto or personal. 

"I would think the Bird scooter company is under a risk of being sued because they provided that scooter to someone who injured someone," Susan said.

Even though Bird is operating outside city lines, city spokesman Steve Sapp said Bird could provide a potential benefit to the city by offering alternative transportation.

Sapp also said the city will have a plan in the next 6 to 12 months after it researches how other cities have dealt with similar companies. 

"With all this development, I think our laws and our ordinances have to catch up with that," Susan said.

The user agreement Bird gives to all users puts a lot of responsibility on the user, including:

  • The vehicle must be locked at the end of the ride.
  • The vehicle must be parked in a legal, public location.
  • The person who unlocks the scooter must be the only rider.
  • The rider cannot be more than 200 pounds.
  • The rider must report if the vehicle is involved in an accident or crash, or if it has damage, personal injury, or is stolen or lost.
  • Auto insurance might not cover accidents involving a Bird scooter.

The full user agreement can be found here.

Lyft just launched its scooter line a few days ago, and Uber said it is launching one soon.

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