Bird, the multibillion-dollar electric scooter startup credited with helping jumpstart the micromobilty movement around the world, bills itself as a “disruptor.” But the company’s newest vehicle, a two-seater Cruiser minibike, shows Bird adapting a more familiar idea to its playbook.
The seated electric vehicle, which boasts padded seats, hydraulic disc breaks, and an LCD matrix display seeks to solve some of the issues restricting electric scooter uptake, namely riders feeling unsafe on shared roads with cars. There will be two types of Cruisers: a throttle-powered version where feet are placed on pegs and a pedal-assist version that works more like a traditional bike.
By offering a seated option, Bird’s Cruiser makes micromobility accessible to more users, especially those who may be older or have disabilities. Unlike scooters, which can be difficult to navigate on bumpy streets or hills, the dockless minibikes will also offer increased vehicle range and a more powerful ride. The Cruiser can travel 50 miles on a single charge.
“To further accelerate progress on our mission to make cities more livable, we are providing additional environmentally friendly micromobility alternatives—including Bird Cruiser,” said CEO Travis VanderZanden, in a statement. “Designed and engineered in California, Bird Cruiser is an inclusive electric-powered option that is approachable, easy-to-ride and comfortable on rough roads.”
Bird—which currently operates in 100-plus international cities, and is valued at more than $2 billion—already has experience designing its own vehicles, evolving beyond the customized Chinese-made model by Xiaomi also used by other scooter startups in micromobility’s early days. The new Bird One model, for instance, offers a sturdier ride and can even be purchased for private use.
However, the Cruiser also raises some questions about how this new model will fit in with Bird’s current operations. Business owners and pedestrians have long complained about errant scooters blocking sidewalks and entryways. While the company says Cruisers should be “parked at bike racks and in the furniture zone where bicycles are permitted to be parked and in a way that they avoid blocking the right of way,” it’s unclear how Bird would prevent additional and perhaps even more incendiary issues created by a larger vehicle. It also begs questions about shared lanes when in use and charging when not.
Long-term, there’s also the question of economics and the cost of a larger vehicle. One of the key metrics governing micromobility profitability is unit economics, how much a vehicle can make over its lifetime, and if that can exceed capital costs. Bird, Lime, and others have been designing their own custom scooters to lengthen their lifespans, recoup more money, and make more sense of the company’s billion-dollar valuations. The company’s in-house designs, Bird Zero and Bird One, are forecast to last 10 months and a year in service, according to Bird, lifespans that are profitable for the company.
It’s unclear if a larger, sturdier, expectedly more long-lasting Cruiser might change that calculus. The Los Angeles Times found that of the nearly 7,000 scooters operating in Los Angeles this past January, 5,500 were out of operation by April, suggesting less-than-stellar durability. Bird disputed those findings.
Curbed asked Bird about pricing and which cities will serve as test markets, and Bird said they’ll reveal more information later.
about these issues, as well as cost per ride, top speed, and the location of test markets, and will update this story when we receive a reply.
Similar concepts to Bird Cruiser already exist. The recently launched, Los Angeles-based company Wheels, for instance, has raised $37 million to launch a single-person, throttle-powered dockless minibike with pegs. Run by the funders of Wag, a dog-walking app, Wheels sees an opening in the crowded (and some would say increasingly ridiculous) micromobility space for a sturdier vehicle that offers a car-free transit alternative to a larger segment of the population. It’s currently operating in Los Angeles and San Diego, with plans to expand to Atlanta.
As the company begins its third summer of operations in some markets, Bird faces a number of challenges, including continued regulatory requests from cities, while attempting to scale its business. Bird saw a flat valuation after an additional $300 million fundraising round earlier this year, and a small layoff of the rapidly expanding workforce in March. Will the Cruiser help Bird steer towards profitability?