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Cambridge is unhappy that Bird scooters came to roost without warning

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

Is it going to be bye, bye Bird?

Cambridge officials on Tuesday reached out directly to representatives at Bird — the California-based electric scooter company that arrived unannounced last week and placed a flock of its rentable rides around the city — to talk about the legalities of the business operating on its streets.

In a letter from City Manager Louis DePasquale to Ashwini Chhabra, Bird’s global head of central policy, DePasquale asked to meet with company representatives to “explore whether and how Bird might operate” in Cambridge.

DePasquale plans to meet with the company on Monday, according to the letter. Until then, he said, Bird is breaking the law.


“I’m advised that you do not have the authorizations or permissions required to operate such a system in Cambridge, nor have you requested any such required authorizations or permissions from the City,” the letter said. “The City will not permit Bird’s electric scooters to be parked and used on City-owned streets, sidewalks, and other public property without all required authorizations and permissions having first been obtained.”

While the letter from DePasquale calls Bird’s presence “illegal,” city spokesman Lee Gianetti said in an e-mail Wednesday that “As of now,” Bird scooters will remain on the roads.

“We plan to meet with Bird first to discuss their business before we determine our next steps,” he said. “Our staff are considering the City’s options.”

Bird showed up last Friday unexpectedly in both Somerville and Cambridge, launching a fleet of scooters unbeknownst to city leaders and residents in the area. The arrival was similar to how other cities were introduced to the company, which has been known to fly under the radar when deploying its scooters.

To use a scooter, riders must download an app, input their credit card information, scan a valid driver’s license, and then agree to some key terms. Once those steps are complete, riders can fire up one of the scooters by scanning a QR code. The scooters can go up to 15 miles per hour and last 15 hours per charge.


Officials from Bird did not immediately return a request for comment about the letter from Cambridge. However, last week, when they debuted, a spokersperson told the Globe that the company “reached out and look forward to working closely with local leaders and officials.”

City Councilor Jan Devereux said in a statement to the Globe on Wednesday that she feels DePasquale’s letter was a “reasonable and measured response under the circumstances.”

“I do appreciate that many residents are interested in trying electric scooters and potentially adding scooters to their expanding menu of personal mobility options,” she said. “I also recognize the potential for conflicts with pedestrians and others trying to safely navigate our busy streets and sidewalks, and that the stealth introduction of these electric scooters in other big cities has been chaotic and contentious.”

As Cambridge mulls what to do next with the latest mode of transportation, Boston has essentially put a full-stop on Birds coming across the border — at least for now.

“They can’t just show up here,” Mayor Marty Walsh told the Boston Herald. “If they drop them off here, we’re going to pick them up off the street and they can come pick them up at the tow yard.”


Meanwhile, in Somerville, officials are remaining open to working with the company, despite being blindsided by the scooters showing up.

“The City is committed to mobility strategies that reduce dependence on the private automobile, and we believe that electric scooter companies can be a part of the solution if the providers work with us, share data, and ensure compliance with safety and accessibility laws,” city spokeswoman Jackie Rossetti said in a statement. “We will be reaching out to Bird to start that conversation immediately.”

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.