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Bird to continue e-scooter operations in Fairfax despite bankruptcy filing

A Bird e-scooter on the sidewalk in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County’s only electric scooter provider will continue operating even after filing for bankruptcy last month.

The company, Bird, will also maintain its scooters in Fairfax City, where it’s one of two companies in a pilot program.

“We expect to continue operations in Fairfax and Fairfax County as normal and we look forward to working with the city and county administration as a partner into the future,” a Bird representative wrote in an email to FFXnow.

The county and city have both been told by the company that service will go on. Bird has permission to operate 300 devices in Fairfax County, while the City of Fairfax generally permits up to 250 devices per company.

Bird and Superpedestrian’s LINK got permission to bring their products to Fairfax County in July 2021 following a November 2019 county board ordinance regulated shared mobility devices. Superpedestrian recently stopped all U.S. operations, though it had already been dropped from the county’s operator list after failing to renew its permit in January 2022.

The county doesn’t appear to have any new partners in the offing at the moment.

“Anyone may submit a Shared Mobility Device Operator Permit Application for review,” wrote Rebecca Makely, director of the county’s department of cable and consumer services, in an email to FFXnow.

Bird’s shared mobility devices saw nearly 20,000 rides between July and December 2023, according to data provided by the county, with an average ride distance of just over a mile during that period.

FairfaxCity authorized a shared mobility pilot program of its own in May 2019, but has yet to establish a permanent program. Bird and San Francisco-based Lime are currently authorized under the pilot, which the city council unanimously voted to extend through June 30, 2024 at a Jan. 9 meeting.

City staff expects to develop a proposal for a more permanent program by the time this extension ends.

“There was a lot of bumpiness during Covid, but a lot of the operations and usage have stabilized, and we feel like we can now begin to transition to a more permanent, long-term program,” Chloe Ritter, the city’s multimodal transportation planner, said at the meeting.

While the city doesn’t expect Bird’s bankruptcy filing to have immediate effects, it could inform program planning.

“We can’t predict what’s going to happen in six months or two years, but I think it’s a good reminder for us to keep our program flexible to respond to those kinds of things,” Ritter said.

In neighboring Arlington County, scooter and e-bike provider Veo recently declined to renew its permit, citing market conditions. Superpedestrian is also exiting Arlington as it shutters its U.S. business.

Bird and Bird-owned Spin still operate in Arlington, as does Lime, which announced near the end of 2023 that it had logged 500 million total rides on its devices.

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