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Bird wants people to report poorly parked scooters

The electric scooter company says it's going to deploy workers to reposition irresponsibly parked vehicles.

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Dozens of haphazardly parked electric scooters can be seen around transit hubs.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Scooter company Bird is looking for tattletales.

It unveiled a new feature on Thursday called Community Mode, which lets people report badly parked and damaged scooters to the company. Bird said it'll send out people to reposition the poorly parked vehicles and collect the wrecked ones. The idea is to keep sidewalks clear of scooter detritus.

"Community Mode gives any individual the power to engage with Bird in real time," Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden said in a statement. "We can work together on making our streets safer and people-friendly."

Over the last year, companies like Bird, Lime, Skip, ScootLyft and Uber's Jump have dropped these dockless, rentable electric scooters onto city streets in more than 100 cities around the US. Many people quickly began using the scooters, loving the convenient and cheap way to get around town. But there's been one persistent grievance: sidewalk blocking.

Cities have received a deluge of calls from residents complaining of sidewalks strewn with the scooters -- blocking access to crosswalks, wheelchair ramps and storefronts. People have also complained of tripping over the vehicles since they didn't expect them to be lying in the middle of the sidewalk.

To report a poorly parked or damaged scooter, people must first have the Bird app. Within the app they just need to click on Community Mode and write about an issue with the exact location.

Bird said it'll deploy workers to reposition the badly parked vehicles. A spokeswoman said that in some cities it'll send out people who already work for Bird as contract chargers or mechanics. For damaged scooters, Bird said it'll send out mechanics to collect the vehicles and repair them.

Bird requires riders to take a photo of their parked scooter when they're done riding to ensure it's parked correctly. If Bird receives a report of a badly parked scooter and believes it may've been the fault of a rider, it'll send that person targeted safety education, said the spokeswoman.

Bird said one of the goals of Community Mode is to encourage more-responsible practices among scooter riders.

"We want to give the broader communities in which we operate the opportunity to partner with us as we help cities alleviate problems associated with congestion," VanderZanden said.

Community Mode will roll out over the next few weeks in all cities where Bird scooters are available.

First published Nov. 8, 1:00 p.m. PT.
Update, 1:37 p.m.: Includes additional information from Bird spokeswoman.    

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