Electric scooter sharing service officially launches in Memphis

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - People raced downtown Friday afternoon to try out Memphis' new motorized scooters.

Bird is an electronic scooter sharing company that launched last year in California.  It officially arrived in Memphis this week--the Bluff City one of 15 cities in the U.S. to now have the e-scooter service.

Friday afternoon's safety seminar on Court Square featuring food trucks and free helmets, attracted young and old, even the police.

"Safety is important to us," said Matt Shaw, Bird's Director of Government Relations.  "Safety is important to the city.  We want anyone riding a scooter or a bike to have a helmet and be safe out there."

Fitted with her new helmet, Jasmine Franklin took her first e-scooter spin along Main Street.

"It was so much fun," she said, "feeling the wind blowing through my hair out here on this nice day.  It was really great!"

The scooter launch attracted Memphis' finest, too.

"We're always interested," said Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings, "in anything new coming out that will affect public safety."

After getting his helmet on, the city's top cop scooted down the Main Street mall like a seasoned pro.

"It's a bird!  It's a plane!  It's a director!" he shouted as he whizzed by the WMC Action News 5 camera.

Riding a Bird is simple. Find one using the app.Unlock it. Put on your helmet, which is required. Start it up and go.

Ride on bike paths or in the street where bicycles travel.  Scooters aren't allowed on sidewalks.  When you're done, leave it anywhere as long as it doesn't block the public right away, like in the middle of a sidewalk.

Bird prefers you leave scooters near Explore Bike stations, if possible.  Just like Memphis' bike sharing program, Bird promotes environmentally friendly transportation.

"I think they're both great," said Shaw.  "Sometimes you feel like peddling.  Sometimes you feel like taking a ride on a Bird.  Anything that gets people out of cars is a good thing."

"I encourage anyone that may have an issue with transportation to work," said Rallings, "to try the Bird or try a bicycle."

"It's really smooth," said Franklin, "and it felt really safe.  It has good brakes and good acceleration.  Everybody should come out and try these new scooters."

Bird scooters can go up to 15 miles an hour.  The cost is $1 to get started and 15 cents for every minute.  So a 20-minute ride costs about 4 bucks.  You can get a free helmet by contacting Bird through the app.

The start-up company, valued at $2 billion right now, is having some growing pains.  Santa Monica recently proposed tougher safety regulations for riders and hefty fees for Bird.  Denver won't allow the e-scooters on roads now, unless there's a bike path, and the city's public works department says leaving the scooters in a public right away violates city code.

Director Rallings said the MPD will keep a close eye on the scooter roll-out in Memphis to see if any new regulations or ordinances need to be passed here.

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