Bye bye birdie: Santa Monica’s home-town scooter will leave local streets starting today. Clara Harter

The City’s second mobility pilot program begins on July 1 with five device types from four different operators, none of which are Bird.

The Santa Monica-based company received the final ‘no vote’ from Council on Tuesday, after Councilmembers Davis and de la Torre’s motion to allow a fifth operator into the program failed.

This motion was intended to squeeze Bird back in as it was the next highest scoring e-scooter company in the selection process. It failed by a 3-2-2 vote, with Councilmembers De la Torre, Davis and McCowan in favor; Brock and Parra in opposition; and Himmelrich abstaining from voting as competitor company Lyft is a client of her husband. Councilwoman Lana Negrete, who took her seat that night, also abstained citing a lack of time to learn about the issue.

After Bird was not selected for the second mobility pilot program in May it filed an appeal alleging that the City did not follow a fair selection process, denied Bird the opportunity to comment on recommendations, and didn’t disclose all selection criteria.

Director of Transportation Ed King reviewed and denied Bird’s appeal. The company subsequently threatened litigation, which was discussed in closed session.

Wheels also filed an appeal after it was not selected for the second mobility pilot program, arguing that they would increase accessibility as they are the only operator to offer a seated pedal-less device. King agreed with Wheel’s argument and allowed the company to bring 200 of its seated e-scooters into the City.

Following Council’s vote to not add Bird, the second shared mobility pilot program will commence on July 1 per King’s final recommendations.

Lyft will continue to operate Class 1 e-bikes, Spin will operate 2 and 3-wheeled stand up scooters, Veo will operate 2-wheeled stand up scooters and Class 2 e-bikes, and Wheels will operate 2-wheeled sit-down scooters.

In total, there will be 2,200 permitted devices on the street, however the pilot program administrators are allowed to raise this number to 3,250 if demand increases.

Councilmember Davis cited the available space for more devices as a reason to consider allowing Bird to continue operating, which in turn could decrease the number of car trips in the city.

“Every e-scooter on the road has the potential to replace an automobile,” said Davis. “I think adding more scooters to the fleet and giving greater opportunity for us to address climate change is prudent at this time.”

Councilmember de la Torre argued that continuing to support locally-based company Bird would help the City’s economic recovery through jobs. He also pointed out that adding Bird would allow for greater continuity of service for residents and visitors traveling from Venice to Santa Monica.

The strongest opposition to Bird came from Councilmember Brock, who shared an anecdote about a restaurant manager’s inability to get Bird to respond to an issue with scooters blocking the front door. He also raised concerns about the device’s relative safety and the manner in which the company has historically responded to safety concerns.

“I still don’t see a responsiveness from Bird that I would like to see considering that they are a company that jump-started in Santa Monica without permits and say to us that they are proud that their headquarters are in the City,” said Brock. “I respect the administration’s decision. I respect the fact that our transportation manager went back and looked at everything that went on and I will be voting firmly against the motion.”

Clara@smdp.com