Bird: Sued by Milwaukee

It has not even been two weeks since Bird landed in Milwaukee, but today, the city of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit against the Santa Monica-based scooter company.

According to a report by the Milwaukee Business Journal, the City Attorney of Milwaukee filed a lawsuit against Bird and its CEO, Mr Travis VanderZanden: the lawsuit demands that Bird pay a flat rate fee of $200 for every time a Bird scooter was ridden in Milwaukee since June 27, 2018. Additionally, the suit calls for removal of all Bird scooters from the area and permission to have any Bird scooters left behind removed. A motion for an injunction ordering Bird and VanderZanden to cease rental of the motorised scooters in Milwaukee was also filed. The hearing has been scheduled for July 13, 2018, at 10a.m., as Nick Williams of Milwaukee Business Journal reports. 

The black e-scooters flooded the city of Milwaukee on June 27, 2018; the California-based company was presumably trying to monetise on the city's increased population during this time - the Summerfest, which commenced on June 27, is considered the world's largest festival and attracts approximately 850,000 people every year. The day after Bird's launch though, the City made it clear that it is illegal to ride Bird in Milwaukee and anyone doing so could be given a hefty fine. Bird then released a statement, expressing its disagreement with the City's claims of illegality and stating the company's willingness to work alongside the city to reduce emissions and address the car traffic crisis. Despite its seemingly cooperative attitude, Bird did not remove any of its scooters at any time, effectively ignoring the City's displeasure.   

Bird has become known for its tendency to drop scooters without consulting with the cities first, a technique reminiscent of the old Uber days. And perhaps it is not coincidental that Bird is following the old Uber-approach. The scooter company's CEO, Travis VanderZanden, launched his career in ride-sharing as the COO of Lyft, eventually moving to Uber as VP of International Growth in 2014. 

Interestingly, Bird and its CEO are no strangers to lawsuits. On the one hand, Mr VanderZanden was sued by Lyft for breach of his confidentiality agreement with the company when he left for Lyft's arch-enemy, Uber. The lawsuit was settled almost two years later, although the terms of the settlement remain undisclosed to this day. Bird, on the other hand, had a nine-count misdemeanour criminal complaint filed against it last December, 2017 by Santa Monica's city attorney. Bird eventually pleaded no contest last February, 2018 and agreed to secure the required business licenses and pay approximately $300,000 in fines.

An interesting trivia is that the scooter-sharing company has been sued by cities in the two states which are, perhaps, most closely aligned with its history. Santa Monica, CA is the place where Bird was born in 2017, while Wisconsin is where Travis VanderZanden spent his college years, as a student at University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.  



Andrew Kyprianides