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Electric scooters pop up in Somerville and Cambridge, unbeknownst to city officials

The Boston area has plenty of bike-share options, with Blue Bikes, Ofos, and Ants available for rent in and around the city. Now get ready for the first local s
The Boston area has plenty of bike-share options, with Blue Bikes, Ofos, and Ants available for rent in and around the city. Now get ready for the first local s

The “Birds” have migrated to the Boston area.

While there are plenty of bike-share options, with Blue Bikes, Ofos, and Ant bicycles available for rent in and around the city, a new mode of transportation just hit the streets.

On Friday, the electric-scooter-sharing company Bird discreetly built its nest in Cambridge and Somerville, rolling out a fleet of dockless scooters, unbeknownst to city officials.

“Birds are now available . . . and as ridership grows, we will adjust the number of Birds and areas they’re available based on rider demand,” according to a statement from the company, which launched in Santa Monica, Calif., last September.


A Bird spokesperson billed the scooters as a convenient way to conquer “those ‘last mile’ trips that are too long to walk, but too short to drive.”

To ride a scooter, a user first has to download the Bird app to his or her smartphone. Once the app is up and running, users then enter their credit card information. An on-screen map uses GPS to show where the scooters can be found.

To unlock a Bird scooter, users have to scan their driver’s license into the app, and then agree to the company’s terms of service: a small list of requirements, including the promise to wear a helmet, not to “double-ride,” and not to cruise along the sidewalks. Users also have to be 18 or older to take a trip.

Once the electric scooter is accessed, all it takes is pushing off three times and holding down the throttle to get moving. A ride costs $1 to start, and then 15 cents for every minute thereafter.

On Friday, as two Globe reporters tested out the scooters, taking them up and down bike lanes in Central and Kendall squares, some people pointed or gawked at the rides. In one case, a person exclaimed “Oh, Birds!” as though they were familiar with the lightweight scooters.


Besides surprising residents in Cambridge and Somerville Friday morning, the small black-and-silver scooters were also apparently a shock to officials in both cities, who said they were unaware of the launch.

Cambridge spokesman Lee Gianetti said Friday that the city “does not have any kind of contract or agreement with Bird” and “was not aware of the rollout of the program.”

Jackie Rossetti, Somerville’s deputy director of communications, issued a nearly identical statement. She added that there’s no official policy on the scooters because they just appeared Friday morning.

Rossetti went on to say that, in general, officials “have concerns about anything that might impede access to public pathways or sidewalks.”

If that’s the case with Bird scooters, she said, they “will be removed by the Somerville Department of Public Works.”

When asked whether Bird had contacted city officials about the rollout, a spokesperson said, “We have reached out and look forward to working closely with local leaders and officials.”

The company said Cambridge and Somerville “share Bird’s vision of building communities with fewer cars, less traffic, and reduced carbon emissions,” and the scooters will help achieve those goals, Bird claims.

Birds can fly up to a maximum of 15 miles per hour and last up to about 15 miles per charge, but they can only be used during the day, before sunset.

The company says each night the scooters are picked up for storage, charging, and any necessary repairs, and are dropped off for riders at 7 a.m.


The company offers customers a chance to “become a charger,” in which you can charge the scooter at your home or office and earn up to $100 per night.

Bird has begun operations in more than 20 cities nationwide, including Washington, D.C., Dallas, and Baltimore, but not every community has been welcoming.

In Denver, tensions flared recently between the company and city officials, after the arrival of the scooters. And in Nashville, city officials are mulling regulations on the scooters following “weeks of controversy” that included “scooter sweeps,” according to the website Tennessean.com.

Two other electric scooter companies — Lime and Spin — have also expressed interest in operating in the New England region, according to Boston.com.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear. Katie Camero can be reached at katie.camero@globe.com.