How shared scooter services changed the face of Tel Aviv

Bird just launched a new app to help riders throughout Israel find the best routes, like a Waze for scooters.

Bird users in Tel Aviv (photo credit: Courtesy)
Bird users in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel has taken quickly to shared micro-mobility services, says Yaniv Rivlin, CEO of Bird Israel.
Two years after the company launched Israel’s first shared electric scooter service in Tel Aviv, Bird has been used by more than 350,000 unique users for more than 5.5 million rides, Rivlin says. The company this week launched a new app to help scooter riders throughout Israel find the best routes to reach their destination – think a Waze for scooters.
Bird was founded in 2017 in Santa Monica, California, and now provides shared scooters in 150 cities worldwide. In August 2018, the company launched in Tel Aviv and Paris, in its first expansion outside of the US.
“There are a few things that make Tel Aviv really great for micro-mobility,” Rivlin says. “The weather is perfect for riding scooters and the city is congested with cars, so there is a need for a more efficient way to get around. That, and the fact that Israelis tend to be early adopters, have made it a perfect fit.”
As Rivlin talks about micro-mobility, it is clear that he believes in the company’s mission. “Scooters are the easiest, most cost-efficient and fun way to get around,” he says.
Yaniv Rivlin, CEO of Bird Israel, at a scooter station (Courtesy)Yaniv Rivlin, CEO of Bird Israel, at a scooter station (Courtesy)
“We want to reduce the number of car trips in the world and the amount of carbon emissions. We believe we have the power to make the environment cleaner and create a fundamental change in how people get around. And we are only just getting started.”
Bird’s scooter sharing service, along with similar competing services like Lime and Wind, allows members who have downloaded the company’s app and registered, to pick up scooters from stations around the city. When a ride is needed, the app will locate the nearest available scooter, unlock the scooter for use, and track usage. In Tel Aviv, a ride costs NIS 5 to start and 60 agorot per minute of riding.
COVID strengthened our industry,” Rivlin says. “People don’t want to ride in buses or cars with other people. Municipalities are recognizing this, and starting to plan around it.”
BIRD WORKS heavily with the cities in which it operates, often providing data that can help them make important planning decisions. “We have a lot of data that we give to the cities about how people get from point A to point B, about what routes are most used, where bus stops are needed, and what destinations are most visited.”
Among data points that Rivlin shares are that 30% of all rides are taken during rush hour, 25% of trips are to a public transportation station, and 30% of riders use their scooters to replace a car trip. “Data like this, and for much more specific points, can help municipalities make smart decisions about how to design the public sphere.
“So, for example, Tel Aviv has a plan to double the length of its bike paths to 300 km. by 2025,” he said. “We are helping them plan the bike lanes with the info we are providing. We also partnered with the city during the Tel Aviv Marathon to help people navigate the city while the roads were closed.
“During Eurovision in 2019, we provided scooters to fans visiting the city – and for Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium, which doesn’t have a lot of parking, we provide an easier way to get there,” Rivlin said. “We even work with United Hatzalah to give them free rides so they can get to accidents and administer first aid as quickly as possible. We want to do whatever we can to provide opportunities to navigate the city better.”
Meanwhile, scooters have become so ubiquitous on Tel Aviv’s streets that some consider them a dangerous nuisance. The city, which is supportive of scooters as transportation, employs a team of inspectors whose job is to make sure that scooter riders stay off the sidewalks and follow traffic rules. Last year, it passed regulations limiting the number of scooters that can be on the street, setting speed limits in certain areas, and requiring license plates so scooters can be identified.
To help make travel easier, Bird has released its new navigation app for scooters. “We are working with Trailze, an Israeli startup focused specifically on micro-mobility, to tell you what is the best route to take, where the bike lanes are, and how to optimize your ride for safety. It gives voice directions so you don’t need to look at your phone, and we hope it will transform the way people get around.”
When will Bird expand to other cities besides Tel Aviv? In November 2019, several dozen scooters were set up in Jerusalem’s Har Hotzvim technology park for a pilot test conducted by the municipality. “We are now waiting for the approval to launch,” Rivlin says. “I think the Holy City would be an excellent place for micro-mobility. I hope we’ll get to launch there soon.”