Bird Rolls out Scooters in London Despite Heavy Restrictions

The scooters will be explicitly limited to a path running through London’s Olympic Park.

byStephen Edelstein| UPDATED Nov 6, 2018 10:33 AM
Bird Rolls out Scooters in London Despite Heavy Restrictions

Scooter-sharing company Bird is launching in the United Kingdom as part of an ongoing international expansion. But Bird will only deploy its scooters along a single path in London's Olympic Park due to strict regulations in the British capital.

In the U.K., scooters are subject to a legal Catch-22. Because Bird's scooters are powered vehicles, they can't be used on paths, according to The Guardian, but they also can't be used on public streets because they don't meet the requirements for road vehicles.

To get around this, Bird's London launch is extremely limited. U.K. laws allow scooters to be used on private property, which is why Olympic Park was chosen. The park is owned by the London Legacy Development Corporation, which is a private entity. Bird won't be breaking any laws as long as its scooters stay within the park's confines. To ensure that, scooters will be tracked by GPS and will automatically power down if they are removed from the appropriate path.

Speaking to The Guardian, Bird head of U.K. and Nordic operations Richard Corbett called the Olympic Park launch "the first step on the journey to change U.K. regulations." It's certainly an opportunity for Bird to show the potential benefits of its scooters in a more controlled manner than its previous launches in U.S. cities.

Much like Uber before it, Bird's original plan for U.S. launches was to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. In cities like its hometown of Santa Monica, California, Bird initially deployed scooters without informing officials. This has led to some pushback, but the growth of Bird and rival Lime has nonetheless been massive. Bird launched in 2017 but is now valued at around $2 billion.

Bird hopes to keep that momentum going with international launches. In August, the company announced that its scooters would hit the streets of Paris and Tel Aviv. However, Bird will continue to face scrutiny from regulators, as well as increased competition from the likes of Uber and Lyft.