Self-service electric scooters finally arrive in Luxembourg! It is the American operator and forerunner Bird who is the first to attempt this feat in the Grand Duchy. Starting today, 360 scooters are now available in the capital. The were stored in a shed kept secret in the city for the last few days. We had the privilege of passing through the gates and discovering this fleet that is invading the city. We also met the team that arrived from Amsterdam – Bird’s European headquarters – for the implementation of its service in Luxembourg.
by: Charles-Louis Machuron
featured: Bird’s e-scooters are coming to town
A hush-hush arrival
The requests for authorization had been ongoing for several months and the rumour was getting more persistent. Two years. This is the time it took to the company, created in 2017, to target the Grand Duchy’s capital after a successful European debut in Paris last year. As electric scooters are not recognized as a means of transport by authorities, Bird’s launch in Luxembourg has been a rather discreet one. While the city has its reservations, there are no legal constraints that prevent it from launching. Until city authorities find a way to establish and enforce rules, this gap in the legal framework will allow Bird and other similar services to operate.
One priority district, two extensions
A study of population and travel flows carried out by Bird led the company to prioritize launch in one of the city’s twenty-four districts: the Kirchberg business district. Bird has added Place du Glacis in Limpertsberg and the funicular from the Pfaffenthal district for the use of its scooters. 40 “nests” will be set up in the busiest areas of these neighbourhoods. This network is only the first step towards the deployment of the service in this city. Bird’s long-term vision is to provide nearly a thousand scooters in the city. This will be done as and when pending infrastructure works are complete, which may take some time given the scale of the work in progress.
Not on my sidewalk!
For months, various muncipalities and citizens around the world have objected as more of these scooters have been found strewn about on sidewalks and other public places. To face these challenges, Bird will be relying on a Luxembourgish fleet management team in charge of the pick-up, dispatch, maintenance and “head-hunting”. Up until now, Bird relied on private individuals called “Bird Chargers” whose mission was to collect, charge, and return the scooters to self-service in exchange for a fee. With this launch, Bird has chosen to offer a premium service and instead rely on a local “Bird Hunter” whose mission is to collect the scooters outside their reserved areas, check their batteries and reorganize these “nests” every day.
A love-hate relationship
After its launch in Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfurt and Munich this summer, and in Verona last weekend, Luxembourg is the new European city to see Bird’s electric scooters in public space. Ironically, the city of Luxembourg reinvested nearly three million euros at the beginning of the year – 2.8 million to be exact – in its Carloh self-service car service, which ended de facto, via a letter from the mayor of the City, the self-service electric scooter service the startup Troty expected to launch. In addition, the Minister of Mobility and Public Works, François Bausch, announced earlier this year that the highway code will be adapted to take into account new means of transport, including electric scooters.
It is possible that the authorities could reject the company if they decide that the service competes with its own mobility services. The company has nevertheless sent a letter to the city of Luxembourg to inform it of its arrival and to smoothen out any rough edges. For Bird, the goal is clear: to last a year and spend four seasons to prove that this service is capable of standing the test of time. The company does have a solid foundation and something to look forward to, since it has just announced a new fundraising round of $275 million (Series D) which brings its value to $2.5 billion. This also allows it to expand its team of 150 people employed in Amsterdam, the European headquarters of the startup, and accelerate its deployment in cities facing major micro mobility challenges.
One flew over the scooter’s nest?
What will the city’s reaction be when it discovers hundreds of scooters coming out of their nests today? Will popular success silence the sceptics? Will Luxembourg City take measures to limit the use of e-scooters? Will Lime, Jump, Tier or Bolt follow Bird’s lead? Will the cohabitation of cars, bicycles, scooters, pedestrians, trams go smoothly? We will monitor this closely to see how Luxembourg City is positioned in terms of mobility.
Until then, you can fly on your own – or rather roll – with Bird, rediscover Luxembourg City and enjoy commuting without increasing exhaust emissions! The arrival of an international player is indeed an encouraging sign for an ecosystem wanting to attract unicorns and obtain international recognition. Fantastic news, isn’t it?