‘Grappling hook’ used to fish e-scooters out of water

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The “Bird Hunting PDX” Instagram account documents vandalism and damage to electric scooters in Portland. 

Portland’s Bureau of Transportation and the electric scooter companies, however, have seemed reluctant to talk specifically about the problem. 

On September 10, KOIN 6 News emailed PBOT to learn about how many scooters had been thrown in the river. (One website estimates that 17 have been tossed into the Willamette.) 

PBOT Director of Communications John Brady wrote, “Scooter companies don’t report to us about incidents of vandalism and we haven’t had any informal conversations about vandalism.” 

Public records, however, tell a different story. 

Emails obtained through a records request show that 5 days earlier, Lime representative Barrett Brown emailed PBOT Regulatory Development and Innovation Coordinator Erika Nebel. Brown wrote, “I wanted to speak about a specific vandalism issue we are having on the east side that is becoming more widespread.” 

John Brady with the Portland Bureau of Transportation, September 21, 2018 (KOIN)

KOIN 6 News asked Brady to explain the discrepancy between his statement – and the email received by PBOT only days earlier. 

“I hadn’t talked to that staffer who was involved in that call. I had asked around, [asked] colleagues if you’ve had informal conversations, and I hadn’t talked yet directly to that colleague,” Brady explained. 

The scooter companies themselves have been tight-lipped about whether vandalism has become an issue in Portland. 

Lime spokesperson Katherine MacKinnon provided a statement to KOIN 6 News: “Vandalism of any kind and theft within the national fleet is less than 1 percent. Lime’s focus is on providing last-mile mobility solutions for all people.” 

Bird, one of the other e-scooter companies, also sent over a statement via email that said, in part: “When Bird vehicles are vandalized or knocked over on the sidewalk, it’s like breaking windows in our own neighborhood. We hope that when people see available Birds, they are mindful of our friends and neighbors who rely on our vehicles to get to work on time or make it to their next appointment.” 

A woman on a Skip scooter in Portland, August 2018 (KOIN)

Neither Bird nor Lime would speak specifically to the exact number of incidents that had occurred in Portland. Skip, the third e-scooter company, has not responded to requests for comment from KOIN 6 News.

Brady, however, did reveal more about the “specific vandalism issue” Lime had been experiencing on the east side. 

He said that Lime had reported a spike in incidents on a trail near I-205.  

“Apparently there were people who were doing something with the mechanics — the battery of the scooters,” Brady said. “They saw similar types of vandalism around the battery.” 

Brady said the incidents seem to have stopped without interference from the agency. 

As for the question of how many scooters have been thrown into the river, there is still no clear answer. 

But Lime does seem to have figured out a solution for fishing them out of the Willamette. 

In an email to PBOT, Lime representative Brown said the company has “had success with using a grappling hook in the past, if necessary.”

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