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Bird scooters banned from Country Club Plaza because of safety issues

How Bird motorized scooters flew into KC

In July, Los Angeles start-up Bird Rides Inc. placed about 100 of its battery-powered motorized scooters in Kansas City.
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In July, Los Angeles start-up Bird Rides Inc. placed about 100 of its battery-powered motorized scooters in Kansas City.

The Country Club Plaza is a no-fly zone for the new Bird rental scooters until further notice because of safety issues, the California company and the shopping district’s management said Wednesday.

Users got the word via app Wednesday morning: “Please do not ride or drop in this area,” said the message, which included a pink-shaded map of the Plaza.

Bird struck an interim agreement with the city last week allowing a limited number of the electric vehicles to operate on the streets. The deal came after the Los Angeles company quietly introduced 100 of the vehicles in the downtown and Crossroads areas without advance notice.

The question of who decided to pull the plug triggered a several hours of confusion Wednesday.

Plaza general manager Meredith Keeler first said in an emailed statement that because the Plaza’s streets are public, the city “was within its rights to make the decision to allow Bird to operate on the Plaza without involving our management team.”

But because safety incidents “resulted in numerous customer and tenant complaints,” she said, “we asked the city to pause Bird’s operations until we can assess whether scooters are the right addition to our pedestrian-heavy district.”

City spokesman Chris Hernandez, however, said the no-ride edict was a business decision made by Bird.

“The City was not directly involved in the conversation,” he said in an email.

After Hernandez issued his statement, Keeler said she misspoke and agreed that the decision to pause operations in the Plaza was Bird’s.

An initial statement from Bird Rides Inc. said only: “We are in communication with city officials regarding the Plaza, and are working together to ensure Bird is operating in accordance with city guidelines.” Later, a company spokesperson said Bird “reached out to Plaza management and proactively made the Plaza a no ride zone.”

Keeler declined to provide details about the safety incidents. Kansas City police said Wednesday they were not aware of any Bird accidents in the area.

However it happened, the news sparked concern among Bird fans.

“Very strange on both sides, bird and plaza,” attorney Chris Brown tweeted.

The interim agreement allows Bird to place up to 500 scooters on streets with the city’s permission. Last week the city approved Bird’s request to add 250 vehicles, bringing their total Kansas City fleet to 350.

But cities including Salt Lake City, Denver, San Francisco and Milwaukee have been trying to ban the scooters until terms can be worked out.

Bird users locate the scooters with an Uber-style smartphone app, pay $1 to unlock them and then 15 cents per minute until they reach their destination. Bird employees use GPS to retrieve the scooters, recharge them and place them in designated “nests” for the next users.

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