I was waiting to board a flight in the Austin International Airport a couple of weeks ago sitting across from an attractive man in his forties and a 30s-something woman typing on her laptop. The two sparked a conversation about mutual work industry news and within a few minutes, he was already getting her information for a potential job within his company—old pals. What struck me as fascinating, however, was not their swift connection but rather what came after that. Once shop talk was out of the way, he casually asked her how she got around ATX. She immediately blurted out “BIRD!” I thought the somewhat millennial answer might have shut him down but instead, his response was akin to something along the lines of “Duh, how else would you get around? It’s so great, right? Let’s talk more about it.” This launched a seemingly endless conversation about the joys of riding a motorized scooter and how it’s superior to walking or driving and blah blah blah (I tuned them out after this).
My point in telling you this story is that it further affirms my theory that motorized scooters are infiltrating our world. During the most recent Paris fashion week, street style photos reflected the 2018 arrival of scooter startup Bird in the city. I visited Paris last September and was admittedly a little judgy about how not Parisian it looked to see cute Parisians zipping around on motorized scooters. Where were the bicycles with woven baskets up front? Where were the Vespas in sorbet hues? Something just felt off about it. Clearly, though, I’m the odd man out in this scenario because models, editors, influencers, and the gang were all riding off to their next PFW runway show on the latest transportation craze and if that’s not what an endorsement looks like I don’t know what does.
Stateside, the company is based in Santa Monica and is already valued at $2 billion, according to a recent Forbes article. They’ve sprinkled their scooters in over 100 cities around the world and have maintained popularity thanks to a few key factors like affordability, flexibility (you can basically park your scooter on any sidewalk you please, much to the chagrin of homeowners), and they even offer a free helmet to active users (sadly, even though I’ve used the app before they don’t ship to New York yet, so I was not successful in my free helmet quest while writing this story).
The @bird Instagram handle mirrors an aspirational-but-attainable lifestyle showcasing fashionably-dressed riders in their 20s and 30s enjoying a Sunday scoot to coffee with friends or even a midweek jaunt in more professional garb. There are even a few celebrity appearances on the account including Mindy Kaling, Ashton Kutcher, and a video of Tom Hanks giving a speech joking about “who gets the first Bird scooter” after he wraps up. In other words, it is happening whether you or I like it or not. Aside from the fact that I think they just look downright goofy, I suppose I can get onboard with cleaner air, less traffic, and a more egalitarian approach to transportation. So basically what I’m saying is, if you see me on a Bird (or Lime or whatever new scooter startup of the moment happens to be) when they finally launch in NYC don’t @ me, I’m scootin’.