Today, three weeks after Lime launched in Sofia, the city woke up with another shared e-scooter service provided by the US company Bird. We managed to count around 100 vehicles in downtown Sofia. We have to, however, confess, our first attempt to find and try one failed – the three e-scooters shown in the app weren’t really there.
The new service works quite similar to Lime (see below) and has the same pricing. What makes it different, however, is the business model. It gives other providers the opportunity to use the platform, purchase vehicles at production price and rent them out under own brands. The US player then earns a share of each ride. The local operator is called Brum.
At the same time, while regulations are still unclear, the signals of accidents with e-scooters are becoming more frequent. Local media report that there have been 11 accidents in the past week, and one rider has already been fined for riding on the street. The misinformation regarding where it’s allowed to ride and how traffic police officers treat e-scooters – as bikes or unregistered vehicles (riding such is a crime), is also growing.
How to rent a Bird e-scooter?
With an app that is available for iPhone and Android. The scooters, which are currently available are displayed on a map. When standing in front of the desired scooter, scan with the QR code on the handlebars with the app. This connects it to your profile and unlocks the scooter.
Through the app, users can also reserve a vehicle in advance for 30 minutes. Of course, that comes with the same cost as riding it.
The app is currently in English and shows that the e-scooters are mostly available in the center of the city.
How much does it cost?
The pricing of Bird is the same as Lime’s – the company requires a fixed fee of 1.5 BGN and then 0.30 BGN per minute.
To drive a Bird one needs to connect a card and is charged based on the length of the ride. At least on the first day, users can have 15 minutes of a free ride after entering the promo code Brum. Users also receive 0.5 BGN cashback if they’ve parked correctly.
How many e-scooters are there in Sofia?
There’s no official information about the Bird e-scooters, but we counted under 100 of them in the app. Lime claims they already have 300 on the streets. There are no official stats on private vehicles.
How does the Bird е-scooter work?
Quite easy. To accelerate, you have to get the vehicle rolling once with your foot, only then you can use the button on the right handlebar to accelerate. There is also a brake on the handlebars, and there are lights in the back and the front to make it easier for other road users to see them in the dark. You can only ride alone on a scooter.
What is the maximum range of the e-scooter?
When the battery is full, the range of lime scooters is a maximum of 20-25 km. Realistically, the ranges could be shorter depending on the paths and whether conditions. The battery levels of the vehicles are shown in the app.
How fast do electric scooters go?
Maximum 20 km / h. There are limitations in some parks and pedestrian areas. Bird automatically slows down to 5 km/h. Lime is limited to 8 km/h.
What to consider when driving? Driving license? Helmet?
You don’t need a helmet or drive license to use them. However, it is recommended to wear a helmet for your own safety, and one needs to be over 18 years old to register and use the service.
Where to ride an e-scooter?
Initially, when the first service was launched, the scooters were approved after coordination with the city of Sofia to ride on bike lanes. They fall under the rules for bicycles, so you can not drive on the sidewalk with them. The slow zones are visible in the app. Streets are still in the grey zone. While we got a recommendation from Lime’s operations manager to ride on small side streets, the police and media claim this is not allowed.
How and where to park the e-scooter?
The marking of 200+ parking spaces for e-scooters, bicycles, mopeds downtown Sofia has started in mid-August. In the first phase, 158 spots will in the Blue and Green (paid parking) zones be transformed. In fall, additional 70 will be set up on sidewalks, parks and other public spaces.
In the app all the parking zones are marked as such. To lock the Bird scooter, one needs to park it and press “End Ride” on the app. If done correctly, you receive 0.5 BGN cashback.
What data does the app collect?
The company automatically collects and stores location information from your device and from any Vehicles you use. They collect and store the location information (e.g., city, state or zip code where available) associated with the IP address of the device you use to access the Services, as well as, with your permission, your mobile device’s location information using GPS or Bluetooth. The company uses this data to analyze the information derived from the use of the services, such as aggregate usage patterns, user preferences, peak demand times, common routes and other information.
How does the provider deal with theft and vandalism?
To prevent vandalism, the e-scooters are collected every day. In addition, they are equipped with GPS modules to locate them in case of theft.
Where else is Bird available?
The scooters are already available in dozens of US cities via app. In Europe, Lime is also on the roads in Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Warsaw, Wroclaw. Sofia is the first city in Eastern Europe.
Who is behind the company?
Bird is a US company founded in 2017 by a former Uber and Lyft executive, Travis VanderZanden. It operates shared e-scooter services in the US, Europe, and the Middle East. So far the startup has raised $273m, and is valued at $2.5b. The typical e-scooter startup business model is far from profitability though, therefore Bird has added an aditional component to it. Part of its business model is to allow local providers to use its platform. The company is basically selling e-scooters to local entrepreneurs, providing them with advice and technical support to get starte. It’s also letting them incur all the costs associated with maintenance and operations, and then taking a percentage of each scooter trip. This is also the way Bird operates in Sofia, the local provider is called Brum.