CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The City of Charleston is trying to stop a contreversial new scooter business from operating in the city.
"Bird Rides" is a scooter rental company which operates in similar fashion to a ride-share. The scooters are rented through an app for $1 and cost roughly 0.15 cents to ride per minute, operating on lithium ion batteries.
However, the city is threatening the owners with fines and possible jail time if the scooters are caught on the streets, following cities such as Baltimore and Milwaukee where local governments have also been forced to deal with the scooters after the company dropped them in.
Michael Haverstick is what's known as a bird charger. His new job consists of picking up scooters and charging them after people ride them. The scooters don't have formal docking stations and 100 were dropped off in the city this past weekend. The city says the scooters were found laying all over, posing a danger to those walking by.
Haverstick doesn't think that's an issue and says they would never be left unattended for long, explaining the more scooters a bird charger picks up, the more they're paid.
"And it's the chase too. You find one and you beat somebody to a bird. You fit as many birds in your car as you can, take them home, charge them up," said Haverstick.
The company, based in Los Angeles and founded by a former Uber executive, launched its first pilot program in Santa Monica in the fourth quarter of 2017. It's already reportedly seeking a $2 billion valuation.
"It's an ever growing city so its nice to see new businesses," he added.
Even after the city advised the company they would be doing so unlicensed and illegally, they still chose to bring the scooters in. Now the city has issued a cease and desist letter, explaining fines and jail time are possible if the scooters aren't taken off the streets.
Some riders say Birds are a good thing.
"I loved it. I work downtown, I live downtown, I love the idea of being able to take this to work. It costs me a dollar fifty to take it back and forth to work, whereas a car doesn't cost that," said David Bizousky who has already used the service
Charleston police say if they see them, they will impound them.
Bizousky says that's not right.
"I don't know what would give them the right to impound it. Are they going to start impounding people's bikes when they go into a bar or restaurant when they go to eat, or a golf cart. It's extremely similar," he said.
Haverstick says the Bird Scooter chargers were asked to keep the Birds at their homes today without being told why, but were told they would be returning to the streets on Tuesday.