Forbes: With Lockdowns Easing, Bird Says It’s Gearing Up For The ‘Next Normal’ In E-Scooters And Urban Mobility
Check out Bird’s Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer, Rebecca Hahn, in the article below!
By Jonathan Keane
Forbes – June 9, 2020
As cities begin to gradually open up, e-scooter sharing company Bird says it is preparing for the “next normal” in planning out the future of micro-mobility with city officials.
Scooter companies like Bird and Lime, much like ride-hailing, have been greatly impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak with a drop in user demand.
Some cities ordered micro-mobility providers to shut down temporarily while others could continue in some capacity to reduce crowding on public transit for essential workers that still needed to travel.
Now as more people leave their homes for work or recreation, Bird is balancing demand with public safety, according to chief corporate social responsibility officer Rebecca Hahn, with the company ramping up its ‘bird baths’, the cleaning and disinfecting regimen for its vehicles.
All the while it has operated a pilot in Santa Monica where riders could view on the maps in the Bird app what local restaurants were still doing take-out during the pandemic. This feature is being extended to more cities.
“We’ve turned it on in other cities as well. Denver is an example. If we go to Europe, Antwerp is another example. This is an instance of really sitting down with a city and figuring out how can we help in their greatest time of need,” she said.
Hahn added that there have been some changes in rider behavior too. In the past, scooters were often used as links between different public transit options. Now she said there has been an uptick in riders using scooters for their entire journey; this has required some changes in strategy around where vehicles are deployed to maximize usage.
“In coordination with cities, we’ve mapped out our plans to resume service and what that looks like and really understanding and spending time with the transportation planners,” Hahn said.
Other challenges remain. With cities in the US beginning to open up, the sharing economy was gearing up for some return to normality. However ongoing protests and unrest in many cities over the last two weeks have curbed those efforts with streets blocked off and curfews in place.
“I think we’re ushering in not a new normal but the next normal,” Hahn added on the resumption of services.
“Cities, departments of transportation and riders and communities are realizing that shared bikes and scooters and privately-owned scooters and bikes are a naturally socially-distant way to get about a community,” she said.
This is the case in Europe where drastic reductions in car traffic during lockdown have resulted in cleaner air and renewed attempts to promote greener transport options.
In Italy, which was one of Europe’s hardest hit countries in the pandemic, there are several efforts to that end. In Rome, Mayor Virginia Raggi has put in place measures to promote bike and e-scooter usage to keep cars at a minimum. Bird is a partner in these plans.
The e-scooter business has seen a lot of consolidation in the meantime. Earlier this year, Bird acquired German operator Circ – Bird suspended many of its Circ services in the Middle East last week – while city authorities are dialing back the number of permitted operators in their cities to bring micro-mobility services under closer inspection.
“I think this time last year you saw a number of different operators and what you’re seeing now is market consolidation,” Hahn said. “That market consolidation is happening for financial reasons both in Europe and throughout the US and also because cities had programs that included anything from eight to 12 operators and [now] two or three.”