MOUNT PLEASANT — Electric scooters were rebuffed in Charleston, so they came across the Cooper River.
They didn’t last long.
Just four days after it showed up in the Lowcountry, the scooter-rental startup Bird has been turned away by two of the region’s largest municipalities. But this time, its scooters are being locked away by the police.
Bird, which is headquartered in Santa Monica, Calif., has seen this before. It has roiled city governments from coast to coast by dropping scooters that zip up to 15 mph, even if there aren’t laws to regulate them. Some cities have threatened to impound them, and others have followed through.
That’s the case in the Charleston area.
The scooters first arrived Saturday on the Charleston peninsula and in West Ashley. By Monday, city officials had told the company to take them out, threatening to lock them away under an ordinance that bans most "unregulated" vehicles downtown. Bird complied, and the scooters disappeared.
But on Tuesday, Bird re-emerged across the Cooper, parking dozens of scooters along Coleman Boulevard and U.S. Highway 17. Mount Pleasant police set out to take them away.
By midday, a pair of officers driving along Coleman had filled a pickup truck with scooters, stopping in the median to grab a few parked on the sidewalk. They were hauled to town hall, where dozens of scooters were locked away.
Across the river, Charleston accused the startup of pushing forward with its plans after city staffers said electric scooter rentals were illegal in the city. It was also chided for not securing a business license.
Bird said it complied with the shutdown order in Charleston voluntarily, and it said it would talk to the city about legalizing the business.
The scooters are rented via smartphone and picked up wherever they were left last.
It’s not clear that it had similar conversations with Mount Pleasant, which is South Carolina’s fourth-largest city.
Mount Pleasant’s mayor, Will Haynie, and its administrator, Eric DeMoura, couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday about their plans for the scooters.
In a statement, Bird said it took "appropriate measures" to operate as a business in Mount Pleasant, and it said it had been "working cooperatively with city officials."
The rise of electric scooters has been swift nationwide. They have spread city by city at the hands of a few well-financed startups that see lightweight scooters as the answer to cities’ transportation woes.
Bird, for instance, has suggested that scooters could be a way to get around when the destination isn’t far away but it’s uncomfortable to walk. It has suggested they’re ideal for trips that are "too long to walk, but too short to drive."
Even so, cities have raised issues with how the scooters are stored because the companies don’t keep stations and let riders park them anywhere. They’ve also generated safety concerns because they move relatively quickly.