50,000 People Flock To Bird In Paris As Scooter Struggles In London Continue

Head of France of US electric scooter-sharing service Bird, Kenneth Schlenker.

Head of France of US electric scooter-sharing service Bird, Kenneth Schlenker.Getty

Just two months after Bird’s electric scooters debuted in Paris, the company told Forbes that 50,000 Parisians have already jumped on for a ride.

Bird, just a year old and already valued at $2 billion, has exploded in popularity across the U.S., already with 2.1 million registered riders who have taken over 10 million rides.

In Paris, the company says some 250,000 miles have already been ridden on its pay-by-the-minute rental scooters.

But at the same time, Bird’s European expansion continues to face roadblocks in London, where regulators are at an impasse as to how the popular scooters should be regulated.

The pitch from Bird, as a London spokesperson told Forbes, is that its scooters are literally solving the “last mile” of transportation, with an average journey covering just 1.4 miles.

Bird currently operates in more than 50 cities in the U.S. and now four in Europe, while its rival Lime is expanding even faster across the continent with 11 cities including Berlin, Zurich and Madrid.

One city conspicuously absent from both company’s coverage is London. Lime and Bird have teams on the ground, but neither has managed to secure permission to launch.

Bird's rival Lime has expanded even faster, now across 11 European cities.

Bird’s rival Lime has expanded even faster, now across 11 European cities.2018 Edward Berthelot

London’s regulatory roadblocks

There are several holdups with bringing electric scooters to the U.K.

Both Bird and Lime have applied to Transport for London (TfL) for permission to launch in London, but the first issue is that TfL doesn’t have the authority to even license this type of vehicle.

That decision ultimately lies with the Government’s Department for Transport (DfT), and the DfT, in turn, has pointed to two problems. First, an outdated U.K. law (originally from 1835) which bans “carriages” from pavements and, secondly, the UK’s DVLA driving authority which has strict requirements over which vehicles are allowed on the roads.

Today Segways, hoverboards, electric unicycles and these new electric scooters all fall afoul of these regulations.

TfL’s Director of Transport Innovation, Michael Hurwitz, earlier this year explained:

“Given this we are not in a position to contemplate something that is not legal, but we will continue to follow developments in this area closely.”

But there might be light at the end of the tunnel.

In September the DfT finished a consultation on the “Future of Mobility” which included a reference to changes in the law being considered for new forms of transport.

Lime and Bird are also both understood to be lobbying hard for legal changes in order to launch.

But clearly, for now, British lawmakers have bigger fish to fry.

As the rest of Europe jumps on the electric scooter trend, the U.K. remains stuck in 1835 for now.

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