Even as new modes of transportation have made inroads in New York City, dockless electric scooters—like the ones owned by Bird and Lime, which have become ubiquitous throughout the U.S.—have yet to make their presence known in the five boroughs.
via @dynamofire, wtf is one of these doing in Brooklyn pic.twitter.com/PUH2iZOebt— plitter (@plitter) August 17, 2018
Or have they? A tipster sent Curbed a video of a Bird scooter in use in Brooklyn amid a throng of cars and pedestrians. As of right now, electric scooters are not available in New York City—the closest cities with the service are Providence to the north, and Baltimore to the south—so it’s unclear how the scooter would have gotten here. (Did someone scoot all the way up I-95?)
And, more importantly, dockless electric scooters are not yet legal in NYC. A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Transportation recently told the New York Times that “They are illegal and I am not aware of anything in the works to change that.” If you are caught using one, you could incur a fee of $500.
DOT reiterated that to Curbed in an email: “We have met with representatives of Bird Scooters and have informed them that motorized scooters are illegal under state law, and they do not have permission to operate in New York City,” a spokesperson told us.
There are obvious challenges to bringing e-scooters to New York’s congested streets, namely safety (would they be used in bike lanes, or on sidewalks?) and where to put them. It took the city until this year to try dockless bike sharing, and electric pedal-assist bikes—which reach a top speed of around 20 miles per hour—were only legalized in July as part of that pilot program.
Even still, there have been other Bird sightings in New York City:
@216Brandon A Bird scooter dumped in Brooklyn High School parking lot. pic.twitter.com/v261OiB63l— Adam Bruncak (@asum2326) August 14, 2018
Spotted: bird scooter. 14th and 5th ave. Nyc has officially been infiltrated— Rima Reddy (@ReddyRima) August 15, 2018
Other, so-called “disruptive” types of urban transportation are seeking a foothold in New York; a moped sharing program launched in Brooklyn earlier this month, for example. But whether we’ll ever see flocks of Birds on city streets—or how these rogue scooters have gotten here—is still, for now, unclear. (We’ve reached out to Bird for comment, and will update with any new information.)
Have you seen one of these scooters in NYC, or used one yourself in the five boroughs? Let us know—our tipline is open.