Bird scooters land in Asheville, create controversy

Thursday morning, Bird dropped off dozens of scooters around Asheville and city officials says they were totally unaware they were coming. (Image: Jen Bowen)

On Thursday morning, Bird dropped off dozens of electric scooters around Asheville and city officials say they were totally unaware they were coming.

Mike Sule was one of the few who was able to get his hands on one of the scooters before city crews started removing them from the streets.

Sule is the executive director of Asheville on Bikes and, he says, the scooter proves how transportation innovation is sweeping the country.

"The issue of transportation, specifically active transportation, is a huge priority for the people of our city," he said.

That's a sentiment that Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer agrees with.

"E-scooters is a thing that's happening in lots of cities around the United States, and we're certainly looking at that," Manheimer said.

The scooters give people an alternative commuting option, and you rent them directly through an app.

"There were 25 (scooters) in Pack Square Park this morning," Manheimer said.

But, they're not there anymore. That's because Manheimer says they just showed up unannounced.

"We were unaware that they were coming," she said. "They've already done this in Charlotte and Chapel Hill, in fact, in August. And those cities had to take action quickly."

That's exactly what city officials decided to do in Asheville, as well.

"We're removing them, but that doesn't say that we can't have this conversation in the future and try to figure out if there's a safe way to provide that service here in Asheville," Manheimer said.

News 13 asked city officials if what Bird did is illegal. Here were their responses to our questions:

Can you tell us if what the company did is illegal?

Yes, what the company did is illegal. The dropping off of these scooters for rental are in violation of multiple City ordinances:

Section 19-137 prohibits parking of any vehicle on any sidewalk.

Section 16-142 states that it shall be unlawful for any person to sell, offer for sale, exhibit or demonstrate any goods, wares, merchandise, mechanical devices, animals or any article of any kind whatsoever, by whatever name called, upon any public street, sidewalk, square, avenue or alley within the corporate limits of the city.

Section 12-53 prohibits leaving or allowing to remain unattended any equipment, packages, bags, or other belongings on city property, and any such item is subject to removal by the city

We also understand the city is confiscating the scooters.

Because these are dockless scooters that are, by definition "unsecured," and because the scooters have been regularly left on streets and sidewalks, Section 12-53 provides that they are "subject to removal by the city."

Is there a specific ordinance or city law that bans these?

Sec. 19-57 prohibits any person from driving any motor vehicle upon a sidewalk or sidewalk area except upon a permanent or temporary driveway.

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