A different kind of two-wheeler is appearing in Dallas neighborhoods. The electric scooter startup Bird debuted its fleet Friday in downtown and Uptown Dallas.
The rollout brings new competition to bike-share startups vying for customers in Dallas. Similar to the colorful bikes around town, Bird’s scooters are dockless. They lock and unlock with a smartphone app. But unlike the bikes, they go up to 15 mph and don’t require you to break a sweat.
“Not only do you get to your destination, but you get a nice breeze on the way,” said Matt Shaw, Bird’s director of government relations for the central region.
Bird is starting with 150 scooters in Dallas and will add more, depending on demand, he said.
Lime — one of the bike-share companies already in Dallas — is bringing its own electric scooters to the city starting Monday, according to Sam Sadle, the company’s director of strategic development. It’ll start with about 250 scooters and ramp up to about 500, he said.
The first electric scooters arrived two days after the City Council legalized them. Council members also approved new rules that require bike-share and scooter operators to get permits, pay the city per vehicle and collect bikes and scooters within certain time limits when the city gets a complaint.
The council approved use of the electric scooters — but only for six months. They’re not allowed on sidewalks downtown.
It has been about a year since the first bike-share companies rolled into Dallas. Grand Prairie-based VBikes parked its yellow bikes near Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas last June. Soon after, the homegrown company faced competition from venture-backed San Francisco Bay-area and Chinese companies including Lime, Spin, Ofo and Mobike.
Bike share has been a buzzy topic — and, sometimes, a contentious one. Some city leaders and residents say the number of the bikes has gotten out of hand. They point to bikes that have wound up in lakes and sprawled across sidewalks, saying they have become eyesores and obstacles. A Dallas high school teacher, who uses a wheelchair, said the explosion of scattered bikes has made it difficult for her and others to get around.
The new city rules, which charge companies for each bike and scooter, are intended to address those problems.
Bird, based in Santa Monica, Calif., has expanded to more than 20 cities since launching last September. In Texas, it’s in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.
Shaw said the scooters are often used by commuters or city dwellers when the distance they’re traveling is too far to walk but too short to drive. The average ride for Bird customers is a mile and a half to 2 miles, he said.
Lime, formerly known as LimeBike, had planned to bring scooters and electric bikes to Dallas in the spring but discovered the city banned them. Sadle said Lime is still interested in bringing electric bikes to Dallas but is focused on scooters for now.
Scooter rentals for Bird and Lime cost $1 to start, plus 15 cents per minute — pricier than renting a bike. Lime, for example, charges $1 for every 30 minutes for bikes.
Each night, Bird and Lime will take scooters off the road to recharge the batteries. Bird’s scooters are said to go about 15 miles on a charge and Lime’s 20 to 25 miles.
Shaw said Bird stands out from rivals because of its commitment to cities where it does business. He said it uses a “smart scaling” policy to monitor use and keep from flooding cities with too many scooters. It donates a dollar a day for each scooter in its fleet to the city or a city partner to put toward things that support multi-modal transit, such as bike lanes, he said.
Sadle said Lime has an advantage because it has had bikes in Dallas since last August.
“We want to see mobility expand in the city, and we feel like this is the next step,” he said.