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Banned scooter company buys Scoot

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Bird’s buyout provides backdoor to SF

San Francisco Battles New Electric Scooter Rentals Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

San Francisco’s scooter drama keeps accelerating. This week the Southern California-based company Bird—whose devices City Hall booted from SF streets in 2018, alongside its most prominent rivals—announced plans to buyout Scoot, effectively pulling an end-run to get back into San Francisco.

According to a Wednesday announcement, “Scoot will continue to operate as Scoot, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bird.”

Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden said, “‘We are thrilled to welcome Scoot to the Bird ecosystem and look forward to working with the Scoot team.’”

Scoot is a relatively small company, based in San Francisco and consisting almost entirely of the few hundred scooters permitted for SF streets.

Bird, on the other hand, operates in more than a hundred cities on three continents, from Oakland to Tel Aviv.

While Wednesday’s announcement did not spell out the reason Bird would be interested in the much smaller Scoot, it’s not hard to sleuth out the fact that Bird covets access to the San Francisco market again.

In August of 2018, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) awarded then-unknown Scoot and equally obscure Skip the only two licenses to rent e-scooters in San Francisco during a one-year pilot program, freezing out better known companies like Bird, Spin, and Lime.

Bird attempted a backdoor return to SF in May by announcing it will offer per-month scooter rentals in San Francisco. At the time, SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said, “We are going to get more details to determine whether or not it [the proposal] complies with existing regulation.”

On Wednesday, outgoing SFMTA head Ed Reiskin said via a letter to the both companies (reproduced on Twitter here) that Scoot/Bird could continue participating in SF’s pilot program.

Reiskin had the option of pulling the permit in the event of a buyout, but chose not to exercise it.