Electric scooters may be coming (back) to Birmingham, thanks to new legislation

Birmingham, Alabama, Shared Economy, Bird, electric scooter
Bham Now team member Wade Cline scooting to his next meeting. Photo by Lauren Bedford for Bham Now.

If you were driving around Birmingham in 2018, you may have seen someone zipping around on an electric scooter. This novelty transportation method was available in Birmingham for a few months in 2018- until it wasn’t. Now, a new piece of legislation might have these scooters zipping back to Birmingham.

Mobility Solutions Made Fun

I fall on the border of millennial and Gen Z, so it goes with the territory that I’m a fan of pretty much any fun gadget. Anything that makes life easier or more entertaining is something I am automatically going to be a fan of.

Electric scooters are no different. My hometown doesn’t have them, but I have spent many a vacation and long weekend zipping around on these. You find one, scan a code into an app on your phone, and off you go! When you’ve made it to your destination, you just leave the unit where you are.

There are many different companies offering this service in the US these days, but the company that first came to Birmingham was called Bird. They were one of the first big e-scooter companies in America.

Scooters in the Magic City

Birmingham, Alabama, bird scooters
Bird scooters parked in front of the Clubhouse on Highland. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

In early 2018, these electric scooters started popping up in Birmingham and Homewood. By August, Bird had mainly concentrated their devices near UAB’s campus and in the Highland Park area. Many Birmingham residents were fans of the convenient transportation option.

Scooter Controversy

Birmingham, Alabama, Bird, Scooter
Two Bird scooters on the sidewalk of 20th Street South, in Birmingham. Photo by Jen Daniel for Bham Now

Upon their arrival, these scooters caused quite the stir. Although e-scooters may be a great mode of transportation, the reception they faced was a bit chilly. Not without reason, however- the scooters arrived in Birmingham unaccompanied by a permit or business license.

Around late summer 2018, the City of Birmingham sent a cease-and-desist letter to Bird. They urged the electric scooter company to purchase a business license. Birmingham and Homewood also impounded several of Bird’s units.

Scooting Back Into Town?

Birmingham, Alabama, Bird, electric scooter
Bham Now staffers Wade Cline and Cody Short take two Bird scooters for a ride in Southside. Photo by Jen Daniel for Bham Now

The scooters were removed from the city following this dispute about permits and whether or not these devices were street-legal. However, a bill recently approved by the Alabama Legislature may have these fun and useful gadgets scooting back to Birmingham!

According to an article by the Alabama Newscenter, Alabama has given the green light to “micromobility device systems,” as the recently approved legislation calls them, to be used on Alabama roadways.

David Fleming of REV Birmingham, a nonprofit economic development group, believes e-scooters can be a tool for helping recruit millennials and businesses while also supporting local tourism.

So What’s Next?

The bill was signed by Governor Kay Ivey following its approval by the Alabama legislature. Birmingham has already drafted an ordinance that governs the devices and the system through which they operate. City leaders say the scooters could be back in town as soon as January 2020.

If and when these scooters make their way back to Birmingham, rest assured Bham Now will be some of the first to hop on! Stay tuned for updates.

Beth Cunningham
Beth Cunningham

A Birmingham transplant who can usually be found hitting a new hiking trail or restaurant opening when she's not writing stories and snapping photos for Bham Now.

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