By Brianna Kwasnik
Paul Koretz, the Los Angles City Council member who represents Century City, has proposed temporarily banning electric scooters until the City can come up with regulations to govern their use. This has sparked a debate in West Los Angeles about the role these scooters should play in the City’s future but in the midst of all the controversy, one group of people have been overlooked, at least by the public: those who rely on the Bird scooters as a source of income.
There are hundreds of people who have signed up to be Bird chargers, since the company launched in Santa Monica in September of last year.
Chargers receive power supplies from the company, which allows for two to three scooters to be fully charged per day. Chargers can pick up the scooters after 8 p.m. when they are powered down to the public and take them home to charge overnight.
Bird pays from $5-$20 per scooter and promises to pay the next day for work that was done the previous night. The charging community quickly grew from a handful of people when it first started, to hundreds who rely on it for full-time work.
There’s a large online community of Bird chargers that provide support and helpful tips to each other. Area-specific communities can be found on Facebook by sending a request to join the group, or publicly on Instagram.
Chargers are also responsible for deploying the scooters back into the public in strategic locations referred to as ‘nests’.
Adam Kramer, signed up to be a Bird charger at the end of December 2017 and has since started his own logistics company, Kramer Logistics, to support what Bird does.
A scooter ban would have a huge impact on him personally, he said, because he currently has 10 employees and a fleet of vans.
“I made it very clear for the Council that this is something that not only I rely on, because I utilized the gig economy to grow my own business, it’s something my employees rely on, and hundreds of people rely on every day to be able to live,” Kramer said.
Supporters argue about how Bird and Lime benefit the environment, eliminate the price of gas or car insurance and are enjoyed by tourists.
One woman broke into tears at a pro-scooter rally in Santa Monica last week while explaining to the crowd that working as a Bird charger allows her the flexibility to care for her son with special needs.
“It would be a lovely thing if we could all somehow come to a resolution where we can find a way of working together, so we can collaberate and be eco-friendly, without it being an issue,” she said.
Special thanks to Christy Schnabel for the photo for this article. To see a gallary of their collection of scooter photos in Santa Monica, visit www.christyschnabel.photography.com.