December 23, 2018
A Bird electric scooter in Tel Aviv. (Photo by: BIRD)
Electric scooter start-up Bird has an ambitious, global mission to reduce car ownership and decrease pollution — and Tel Aviv is at the heart of the California-based company's global expansion strategy.
Since Bird landed in Tel Aviv in August, the second location outside the US, "one in 10 Tel Avivians" have used Bird's shared electric scooters, according to Bird Israel general manager Yaniv Rivlin.
Earlier this year, reports issued by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Monetary Fund awarded Israel the unenviable title of having the worst traffic congestion in the Western world.
Estimates suggest that by 2025, more than one million cars will enter the city every day, not only increasing congestion but also pollution. According to Bird, every mile traveled on a Bird scooter instead of a car prevents 0.4 mg of carbon emissions.
"It's a big mission to take cars off the road, but Israel and Tel Aviv are the perfect places for it," said Rivlin. "The incredible weather all year long, combined with Israel having an early adopter culture and passionate scooter scene, makes it a perfect spot."
The company, founded in April 2017 by former Lyft and Uber executive Travis VanderZanden, saw 2.1 million unique users and some 10 million rides worldwide during its first year of operations.
A critical element of choosing locations for expansion is the availability of "last mile travel" — the final stage of travel within a city, or the last segment between the bus or train station and the final destination. By offering a transport solution for that "last mile," the company aims to lower the need for car ownership.
"People have had enough of sitting in traffic and they want to have a fun, reliable mode of transportation, and also to treat the environment better," said Rivlin.
In November, Bird extended its operations to Ramat Gan and is planning further expansions soon. Even as the venture grows, Rivlin emphasizes the need to treat the public space with respect.
Every night, the company collects all the scooters and releases them the following morning in "nests" to ensure that users have a reliable transportation service. Bird also seeks to create a shared economy by incentivizing individuals to charge scooters at home overnight and return them in the morning for Bird credits.
"It has been an incredible ride so far," said Rivlin. "I hope that the estimate of one million cars coming into Tel Aviv in 2025 will not come true. If we can prevent that, then we have started to achieve our goal."