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Birds as new transportation craze in Baltimore

Posted: 5:54 PM, Jul 26, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-26 17:54:21-04

You know the basic ways to get around Baltimore: cars, bikes and by foot. The latest craze is raising some questions. 

"What are these things? They are everywhere. They are just parked on corners. It doesn’t look like anybody owns them. How does the whole thing work? Who takes care of them?" Baltimore resident Richard Madow said.

The motorized dockless scooters are called Birds  and they've been on the streets for about a month, run by a company based in California. 

"It’s really great for professionals because I don’t have to get on a bike or in a car and I can be wearing my dress," Jill Green said, who works in  Baltimore.

To find one, you use the Bird app and then scan the QR code to unlock it. You do need a credit card and license to use the app. When you're done using it, you just leave it off to the side of a sidewalk, away from doors and foot traffic, for the next person to grab. 

Riders say it's a faster way to get around.

"We live downtown and sometimes just to drive 4 5 6 blocks can take 10- 15 minutes depending on how many people are blocking the intersection so this would definitely be a quicker way to get from point A to point B," Madow said. 

"I’m a lazy person so these have really come in handy," rider Miyah Myers said. 

Some say they prefer Birds over bikes because of the price. It's $1 to rent and 15 cents per minute after that. A 22-minute ride was about $4.50. It can also save you from working up a sweat on a hot day.

"I think generally people are in better moods. It’s fun to ride. People aren’t walking around getting all sweaty. You see people riding them and they appear to be happy," Aaron Thomas said, who used Birds to get to and from work. 

The scooters get charged overnight by people hired by the company. 

"You pick them up, charge them up, and you have to have them the next morning before 7 a.m.," charger Ryasheed Chatlin said. 

Riders say they are convenient if you find one, but they can be hard to count on, sporadically placed all over the city. 

"If you leave your house in the morning expecting to have one, you probably will be disappointed, but if you happen on to one, you hop on," Thomas said. 

The birds are in 17 other cities across the county, some of which have banned or strictly regulated them. Baltimore's Department of Transportation is working on a policy for dockless transportation after field calls from lots of people in the city about who regulates them and how they work. A move supported by a local bike advocacy group. 

"Bikemore has encouraged the city to develop a pilot program for dockless bikes and scooters that formalizes the presence of these companies in Baltimore and holds them accountable to best practices in dockless vehicle share, including appropriate parking, open data, and equity in placement," Bikemore policy director Jed Weeks said. "It's our understanding that policy is being finalized, and with it, dockless programs can provide safe, convenient transportation choices in Baltimore."

Some riders already understand the need to be considerate and share the sidewalk.        

"Make sure that you’re not interfering with pedestrians. As it gets crowded down here with tourists, you don’t want to be running people over on your scooter," Green said. 

The general feeling, from riders and residents on the street Thursday, is that they are good for the city. 

"I think it makes Baltimore look really cool actually. We’re a hip city," Madow said.