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Is Bird the word? 

According to bird.co, San Luis Obispo has joined cities such as Los Angeles, San Jose, Santa Monica, San Diego, and Berkeley as a Bird city, meaning we have the electric vehicle sharing service Bird supplying our town with easy-to-access rental scooters. If you're thinking, "Yeehaw! I'm going to take them off some sweet jumps," not so fast, hotshot!

It turns out that Bird, which has a habit of "rogue-launching" in cities without permission, has been told to hit the brakes by SLO city officials until they can assess the viability and practicality of the scooters, which have had a less-than-enthusiastic welcome in some communities.

Take Venice, for instance, where Bird first launched. Bird's founder and CEO, the fabulously named Travis VanderZanden, said, "We won't be happy until there are more Birds than cars," to which many Venice residents spewed colorful epithets the likes of which might make a sailor blush. The problem is the scooters are dropped everywhere, used and discarded exactly like someone would use and discard something that's not their responsibility to maintain or care for.

The whole Bird system depends on volunteers taking the scooters home at night, recharging them, and sending them back into the world. Users download an app, which when opened shows a SLO Town map with a pulsing purple dot signaling your location. The map shows nearby Birds, and all you do is scan the code on the scooter you want to use into your phone and your ride starts at about 50 cents per 15 minutes. Except currently there are no Bird scooters in the city. And yes, of course I downloaded the app! I'm the Shredder that wants to take them off some sweet jumps! See you soon, Fredericks Street! Thanks for being so close to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center!

Yes, there are many horror stories of Bird riders zipping along bike lanes and sidewalks at 15 mph, cellphones in hand, ear buds pumping the EDM track du jour into their already distracted brains. Broken shoulders, head injuries, concussions, bloodied knees and elbows follow. For fun, look up "Bird Electric Scooters BIGGEST FAILS" on YouTube where you can watch former porn star (as least I hope he's "former") Ron "The Hedgehog" Jeremy hit a parked car, watch a Bird rider collide with a pedestrian walking into her green walk signal, and watch a crash victim say, "My scooter ride was $1.38 but my E.R. bill will be a couple thousand dollars."

We live in a town with great bicycle infrastructure, but there's still endless acrimony between drivers, bicyclists, electric bicycle riders, and others. Do we really want dozens of electric scooters scattered around town for every drunk-ass college kid to access when it's time to stumble home?

We do if we want to see the sequel to "Bird Electric Scooters BIGGEST FAILS!" Let's do this! Plus, Bird will no doubt help SLO Town reach its goal of being a net-zero emissions city by 2035, which SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon is announcing all over Facebook even though other City Council members wanted to hold the announcement until the city had, you know, an actual plan developed to reach that lofty goal. Hmm. Is this an election year? Why yes, yes it is, and Harmon has done little to hide her desire for a big progressive announcement to rally her base of supporters to vote for her over her NIMBY folk hero challenger T. Keith Gurnee. Careful what you wish for, Heidi! Gurnee will have your laudable ecological goal twisted into an attack on long-term residents faster than you can say, "widened bike lanes."

Meanwhile over at the SLO County Board of Supervisors, a rare moment of bipartisan tranquility! I know! I didn't think it was possible, but right there on 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill's Facebook page he gushed, "Yesterday was one of those rare days when you had to be inside the BOS meeting to appreciate it. We made another step forward on fixing our jail health care. It was teamwork to get us there ... . It's the best I have felt after a BOS meeting in along time."

Adam usually leaves meetings with steam coming out of his ears, a tummy ache, and a case of the Mean Reds, so congratulations, supervisors! I hate to pour water on your champagne party ... but, why are you keeping secret the company you're considering awarding the privatization of health services at the jail to? What's the big secret? You claim privatization will save the county money—about $2.7 million off a projected $9 million in-house bill—and say privatization will lead to better care and staffing. Great! Which company?

And how did privatization work out for the Santa Barbara County Jail? Oh yeah ... more inmate deaths. Hopefully this won't be the case in SLO County, but why not let the public know whom you're considering awarding the contact to?

As SLO County Counsel Rita Neal admitted, "Outsourcing is not the end-all solution. There might be some sad outcomes because of the nature of the population the jail serves."

I think most local residents are sick of (pardon the pun) sad outcomes when it comes to SLO County Jail medical and mental health care. Δ

The Shredder will flip a Bird. Send ideas and comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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