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City of Fresno issues cease-and-desist letter to Bird scooter company

Fresnans test out Bird electric scooters

The Bird company unveiled their electric scooters on Aug. 16, 2018 in different parts of Fresno and around Fresno State as part of a university tour across the United States.
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The Bird company unveiled their electric scooters on Aug. 16, 2018 in different parts of Fresno and around Fresno State as part of a university tour across the United States.

The city of Fresno has issued a cease-and-desist letter for the Bird scooters left around the city last month.

The city gave Bird Rides Inc., a Santa Monica-based company that provides dockless motorized scooters for public use, until Sunday, Sept. 9, to remove all of the scooters from the city until an operating policy and business agreement can be reached.

The letter was issued to the company on Aug. 29 and the city has been in talks with Bird on a resolution, a city news release said. City officials said Bird didn’t approach the city to get the proper permission and licenses to operate here.

“If you want to use the public right-of-way, you have to operate in the public interest,” said Jim Schaad, assistant city manager for the city of Fresno.

Bird said last month that the scooters in Fresno were part of a “pop-up tour” with the goal of alleviating parking and traffic congestion at colleges and universities. Friday afternoon, the company issued a statement saying it’s committed to working with city officials.

“We have been encouraged to see the people of Fresno embrace our affordable, environmentally friendly transportation option, including the hundreds of students at Cal State Fresno who sent emails to the city in support of Bird,” a company spokesperson said. “We have been having productive conversations with local leaders and hope to work with Fresno on a framework that will work for everyone.”

Lawrence Salinas, Fresno State’s executive director of governmental relations, said, “We respect the City of Fresno’s position and want to ensure that all applicable operating permits are in place and will await further guidance.”

Since Bird appeared in Fresno, the city has received numerous ADA and safety complaints. Users have left scooters on lawns or blocking sidewalks or entryways, the city said.

City officials said they will meet next week with Bird representatives to discuss a business agreement.

“We want to be business friendly – but friendliness goes both ways,” Mayor Lee Brand said. “We will continue to embrace different forms of transportation, but not at the expense of safety or public process. We appreciate Bird’s eagerness to establish themselves here before their competitors do, but it’s not fair to the thousands of businesses in Fresno who play by the rules, received the proper permits and licenses, and are operating legally.”

Despite efforts to provide efficient transportation options, it hasn’t been a smooth ride for the Bird company or their scooters. A litany of complaints from people in urban cities and city governments about the scooters have surfaced since the company was founded in 2017.

Other cities, such as San Francisco, also have issued cease-and-desist letters to the company. Police in Milwaukee ticketed a rider for striking and injuring a pedestrian with a scooter in July. In St. Louis, Bird pulled the scooters off the street before it officially launched the ride program.

Brianna Calix: 559-441-6166, @BriannaCalix
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