Bird violates city agreement less than two weeks after reaching deal

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COLUMBIA - Bird riders can still find scooters scattered around Columbia, but not if the company violates its city agreement again.

The company failed to remove its scooters from city sidewalks before Sunday's snowstorm and halt the service in the days following -- two requirements issued by the city as part of its recently-approved agreement.

Benedict Nagy, a recreation leader for Columbia's Parks and Recreation Department and manager at Walt's Bicycle & Wilderness, said Bird's violation of its contract poses a safety risk.

"Any two-wheel vehicle really relies a lot on friction with the road to stay upright," he said. "If you hit an icy patch or some sort of low friction surface, the tires are going to slip and most the time you're going down."

That's exactly what happened to MU student Chisom Okafor:

"I was about to go to work, that’s why I hopped on it, and I was riding on the sidewalk and there was a piece of ice I didn't see," she said. "The wheel spun out and I fell, it threw me off and then I flew into the bushes.”

Okafor said she was okay after her fall but not without injury.

"I stood up and I just felt all the pain in my knees and I looked down, and there was so much blood coming out of my knees and on to my pants."

Okafor said she's done riding Birds for now, but wasn't aware the vehicles were inoperable on ice.

"If it was written in the fine print maybe I didn't see it, but I had no idea," she said. "I thought it would work just as fine as it would on a regular sunny day; turns out, that's not the case."

In a statement, a Bird spokesperson said:

"Weather can be unpredictable — so we are working closely with Columbia city officials to ensure that we are cooperating with all local rules and have clear lines of communication to monitor and address any sudden changes in weather."

Nagy said the tires of bird scooters make them a risk during icy or snowy conditions. Tires on two-wheeled vehicles have to be thick or come equipped with studs.

"[Snow tires] really just kind of maximize the surface area that's in contact with the road," Nagy said. "A smaller tire just doesn't have the friction with the road surface to provide traction."

KOMU 8 reached out to the City of Columbia for comment several times but did not hear back.

In a previous interview with the Missourian, city communication director Steven Sapp said Bird will only receive a warning for now. Should it violate its agreement or a city ordinance again, the city will exercise its right to impound the scooters.