Despite its parent company's recent bankruptcy announcement, Bird Canada will still provide e-scooters in St. Albert this summer — ensuring at least one company will be back in 2024 after a host of departures, bankruptcies, and buyouts by other companies left local riders with just one option in 2023.
Bird Canada's United States counterpart, Bird Global, announced on Dec. 20 the company was restructuring amid bankruptcy proceedings in the state of Florida.
The restructuring, a company statement says, “is aimed at strengthening its balance sheet and better positioning the company for long-term sustainable growth.”
“Bird Canada is not part of the filing and Canada remains a key priority market for the business,” said Bird Canada's chief operating officer, Alex Petre, in an email. “As such, I want to underline that there is no impact on Canadian operations today, or in the future, and scooters will be available in St. Albert next summer as usual."
Petre's assurance that Bird Canada will still operate in St. Albert should be welcome news for local micromobility enthusiasts, as without Bird it's likely St. Albertans wouldn't have any e-scooters in 2024 following the bankruptcy of Roll Technologies (yellow e-scooters) last March; Lime's (white and green e-scooters) decision to pull out of St. Albert after the 2022 season; and the Canada-wide departure of Spin (orange e-scooters) prior to the summer of 2022.
Despite Bird Global purchasing the Spin brand for $19 million this past September, making Bird the largest operator by market share in North America, Petre told the Gazette the company doesn't anticipate Spin's return to Canada.
In an email, Lime spokesperson Jacob Tugendrajch said that the company is “definitely” open to returning to St. Albert in the future, but there isn't necessarily a threshold, such as population growth, in mind that would trigger the decision to return.
“We plan to be a long-term mobility partner in Edmonton and we would definitely be open to returning to St. Albert in the future,” Tugendrajch said, adding that in 2023 the company was “focused on making Edmonton a success this year, which it absolutely was, as ridership increased nearly 200 per cent compared to 2022.”
Local ridership numbers down
With Bird being the only e-scooter operator in St. Albert in 2023, it's no surprise local ridership numbers were down last summer, the first since city council made the e-scooter program permanent.
Bird Canada spokesperson Austin Spademan told the Gazette last month that St. Albertans travelled 34,722 kilometres on e-scooters in 2023, which is down from the nearly 50,000 kilometres residents travelled on e-scooters the year before, when several companies were in town.
Bird's ridership predictably increased in 2023 compared to 2022, as last year the Gazette reported Bird e-scooters were used to travel over 26,000 kilometres in 2022.
Spademan also said the longest single e-scooter trip undertaken by a resident in 2023 was 31.62 kilometres, which beats the 2022 longest recorded trip in St. Albert by almost eight kilometres. Considering the scooters have a maximum speed of 15 kilometres per hour, a nearly 32 kilometre trip took over two hours to complete.
St. Albert's most prolific e-scooter-user took 98 trips during the 2023 season, Spademan said.
“In 2021, 2022, and 2023 combined, Bird Canada has prevented 11.9 metric tonnes of [carbon dioxide] emissions in St. Albert by operating our micromobility network,” Spademan said. “Most cities report that 45 per cent of the time someone taking an electric scooter would have taken a vehicle. Using this assumption, we can calculate the emissions prevented by extrapolating the average distance of a Bird e-scooter trip in St. Albert [versus] the average automobile emissions a trip of that length would admit.”
“Bird Canada can help further support the modal shift to active methods of transportation, whereby people choose to ride an e-scooter, their personal bike or walk in lieu of using car transportation.”