An Essay: My Experience Riding a Bird Scooter
For the first time in a long time, I felt free: wind in my hair, feet off the ground and sun on my skin. There were no seatbelts or harnesses. There was nothing holding me back from whatever lay ahead. I existed amongst the cars and trucks, yet I was safe and separated, moving on my own path. In that moment, I felt like I could go anywhere. I had finally hopped aboard a Bird scooter and much like a bird in the sky, I felt like I was flying.
Well. For about a month, at least.
Like a blanket of fog that covers the ground, a flock of Birds too descended upon downtown Nashville while the city slept. When the sun rose, a fleet of scooters had littered the sidewalks. They were leaning against honky tonks on Broadway. They were parked outside Bridgestone Arena. And they supposedly stood still in the middle of the sidewalk, impeding pedestrians’ abilities to navigate the downtown streets.
Some people were frightened of these Birds, and their fear ran deep. But this wasn’t your typical ornithophobia we’re talking about, people. This fear of Birds was different. Even local politicians feared the Birds because, quite literally, they did not know how to move forward.
After only two days in the Nashville market, said politicians quashed their fears: Bird Scooters received a cease and desist order from Metro claiming they “obstruct the public sidewalks.” Bird had 15 days to pack up and well...scoot.
Truth be told, when the Birds first landed in Nashville, I was speculative. I was curious. Heck! I would even go so far to say I was dubious about these orphan scooters that suddenly lingered outside my place of work. Where were their homes? Where were their owners? Why were they leaning against the wall outside Paradise Park instead of nestled into a cozy charging dock next to some major Nashville landmark?
That said, they did pique my interest.
It was Wednesday, May 10th when Ben came strolling into the office with a smile plastered across his face that stretched from ear to ear. He had just taken his inaugural flight, and even as a self-proclaimed nervous first-time rider, he gave a glowing review.
And that was all it took: one positive review coupled with a clear explanation, and I was all in. I knew I needed to hop on the bandwagon, and I needed to hop on it quick. The following afternoon, Jordan and I set out on a mission to give them a whirl.
Figuring out how to make the Birds actually go took a little bit of finagling (Pro Tip: add in your license information and credit card number before you get out into the hot, hot sun), but once we got them fired up, there was no holding us back. Emotions took the wheel — er, the handle bars — and we were whisked away, along for the ride.
We zoomed down Demonbreun Street in the bike lane, narrowly avoiding a suburban that had elected for a mid-street 4-point turn, but doing so deftly, without hesitation.
// giddiness //
We cruised past a police car, tension rising and adrenaline pumping due to our lack of legally-required head protection.
// elation...mixed with slight uneasiness, fear, and sweat //
We whizzed down 3rd Avenue, weaving in and out of traffic as passersby shot us quizzical looks.
// absolute glee //
We let the scooter do the work as we rode to the top of the Pedestrian Bridge and gazed out over the Cumberland River, marveling at the piece of technology beneath our feet that was giving us so much childlike joy.
// invincibility //
It was when we were making our way back to the office that our fun began to fizzle.
We zipped in front of the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall and took a right on 4th Avenue, electing to ride the sidewalk for the small stretch between there and Broadway, since 4th Avenue does not have bike lanes. As we cruised on, the bouncer at a bar-that-shall-remain-unnamed yelled at us.
“Hey, y’all cain’t be ridin’ them on the sidewalks!” he shouted. “Yer s’posedta stay in the street. It’s ‘gainst the law!”
Taken off guard, I managed to yell back “Okiedokie!” and kept on my merry way, but did so with significantly less merriment than before.
// dispiritment - coupled with reality //
It was at that moment when my heart sank down into my stomach and anxiety rose up into my chest. Did the Birds really have to go?
In the days that followed my initial entree into the remarkable world of scooter-sharing, I made it a point to talk about, promote, and ride Bird scooters as much as I possibly could. Since the lifespan of the Birds would be much shorter than I hoped, I was determined to get my fill — and make sure everyone else got theirs — before they fled.
On Friday evening I used a Bird to get to and from a brewery where I’d met friends for drinks and where parking is commonly sparse: $2.20 each way.
That same day, Jordan took a Bird to go pick up her car from the Toyota dealership, where she’d dropped it off for an oil change: $3.00.
On Saturday morning I preached the gospel of birds to a room filled with 19 yoga students, while miraculously, a couple Birds zoomed by outside our window: priceless.
And when I found a stray Bird in the middle of Shelby Bottoms I hopped right on and rode it back to the parking lot just for the heck of it, so another rider would be able to find and utilize it more easily: $1.25.
...And that only scratches the surface of what these Birds have done. I saw men in suits riding on Birds before the morning rush hour. I saw women in heels riding a Bird as the sun was setting and the sky looked like fire. I took countless other rides, more than than those mentioned above, and I spent next to nothing in the grand scheme of things.
But then one morning I slept through my alarm, and woke up just completely zonked and dead-tired, and went into work with not nearly enough caffeine in my veins, and decided I needed a mid-morning double-shot latte, and I figured I’d hop on a Bird and buzz over to Bongo Java in the Omni to get my fix, and then when I opened up the app and looked for a scooter I found out...that I couldn’t find one. Well, not really.
There was one Bird way over by the Courthouse about 6 blocks away and there was a little cluster of them nestled just outside of Pinewood, but nothing that would make sense for my 5 minute coffee walk. So I did just that: I walked.
And then the next day I saw a mysterious person collecting a whole gaggle of them and throwing them into his trunk.
And then two days later on the East side of town I witnessed a similar scene.
And then, almost as stealthily and silently as the Birds descended upon our city, so too did they fly the coop.
Soon, I suspect, we’ll be left with nothing but the memories. It was fun while it lasted...Bye Bye Birdies.