LOS ANGELES — Bird is spreading its wings. Four years after igniting the shared scooter craze, the Santa Monica startup is now connecting riders with Metro's bicycle program through a new Bird bikeshare “integration" that launched Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Riders can now use the Bird app to find bicycles offered through Metro Bikeshare. Starting Wednesday, anyone looking for vehicles in the app will be able to see public bike stations near their location as well as the number of bicycles that are available. The app then automatically connects the rider to the Metro app to start the rental.
“Cities and riders are best served by transportation services that complement one another,” Bird’s Global Head of Operations, Renaud Fages, wrote in a blog post on the company’s website Wednesday. “To serve all riders, we must think creatively in ways that support existing transit modes and fill in a city’s mobility gaps.”
Los Angeles is one of five cities where the Bird bikeshare integration is launching in partnership with bikeshare services the company does not operate itself. Austin, San Antonio, Milwaukee and Oslo, Norway, are also participating.
The integration of Bird and locally operated bikeshares uses something called the General Bikeshare Feed Specification — an open data standard for shared micromobility. GBFS, as it’s known, enables real-time data to be publicly available to make vehicles, such as shared bikes, easier to find.
A Bird spokesperson said the integration is a way for the company to reduce dependence on gas-powered vehicles and to meet the multimodal mobility needs of cities without monopolizing transportation options. Bird does not make any profit from the integration, the spokesperson said.
The bikeshare integration is also a way for municipalities to reach more people with affordable transportation options when COVID has reduced the desirability of taking public transit. Ridership on Metro trains and buses in August was 56% of what it was prior to the pandemic.
The initiative is part of the smart bikeshare program Bird announced earlier this summer, which will make Bird-branded electric-assist bikes available through the app in addition to its infamous scooters. That program does not currently exist in LA because Bird does not have enough bikes of its own for the program, the company spokesperson said. LA is one of 300 cities where Bird currently operates.