(Transcript)

Cindy Speaker:  Good afternoon everybody, and welcome to our show today. My name is Cindy Speaker, and I have with me today, Attorney David Daggett of Daggett Shuler Attorneys At Law. David, how are you today?

David Daggett:  Good, good Cindy. It’s great to be with you.

Cindy Speaker: Great to be with you too, as always.

Cindy Speaker: Well, we have a really interesting discussion today, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it, especially from a legal perspective.

David Daggett:  Yeah. The birds have landed.  And they have flocked in Winston-Salem. And so have the Canadian geese. They’ve stopped over on the flight down for the winter so, you know, the birds are everywhere.

Cindy Speaker: Well tell us a little bit about this. I haven’t seen them at all, other than in the videos.

David Daggett:  Yes. Yes, so real briefly, the Birds are scooters that are operated with an app. It’s a company out of California, I think Santa Monica, and it’s a new wave that’s kind of spreading across the country. It’s kind of a cool thing, but communities, cities, states, are trying to figure out how to deal with them. So here in Winston-Salem, I’m not sure how many. I would say hundreds, but that might be too many, but certainly there’s at least a hundred Bird Scooters that showed up in Winston-Salem overnight. They showed up in Greensboro overnight, and they’re on street corners. People get the app, they come up to them, they’re unlocked with the app. The app charges them. It’s almost like your personal little Uber in a scooter.

Cindy Speaker: Isn’t that something?

David Daggett:  No, it’s really something, and quite frankly, the technology of all of it is pretty cool. And they also have a service deal. They have contract service people who pick them up and charge them at night and put them back, but they have GPS tracking so the company knows who picked up which ones and how many and it’s … you know, the automation of it is really, I think, quite a study in and of itself.

Cindy Speaker:  That’s incredible. So does that mean that the individual that rides it does not need to take it back to where they picked it up?

David Daggett:  No, they just drop it to wherever they’re going.

Cindy Speaker:  Okay.

David Daggett: So in big cities, there’s some real benefits. I was in Raleigh earlier this week on business, and Raleigh has a whole lot more bike lanes than we have here. It was interesting to me to see the number of people riding the Birds in the bike lanes, and I stopped one guy and asked him. He said, “Oh, it’s the greatest thing in the world,” because, you know, with the state government there and the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals and Attorney General’s office, that there’s always documents and packages and papers that with short deliveries, but beyond just an easy walk. Now they just walk out the door, use their app, jump on the Bird, take it to wherever they’re going, deliver their package, maybe stay there, maybe take the Bird somewhere else, or another Bird. They’re left everywhere.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah. Wow. That’s amazing.

David Daggett: And he said the ease of traffic, getting around, particularly in a big city and not having to worry about parking and all that sort of thing is really a valuable asset to the community.

Cindy Speaker: Okay. Well, it all sounds great, but I would imagine there’s some significant safety issues here.

David Daggett: Yeah, there’s the flip side of the Birds, and there’s … you know, when we were growing up, we always talked about the generation gap. Do they still talk … Catherine’s nodding her head. And pointing at me.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

David Daggett:  There’s a generation gap, so you know what I always say, the people older than me are the old folks and the people younger than me are the young folks and, you know, I’m the perfect middle.

So for the older folks, the Birds can be a little bit irritating. They’re parked around haphazardly, blocking sidewalks. You don’t necessarily how they’re operating and how to navigate with them and all those sort of things. For particularly the millennials, you know, this is a cool sort of everyday sort of thing and they can just use that and ride around. It’s a little bit, in my mind, and I was thinking about this. It’s a little bit like when we went from the horse and buggy to cars.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett: Everybody knew how to deal with car, or with horse and buggy. They knew how to park the horse and they knew, but they didn’t know what to do with cars or where they were supposed to go and what we had to do as a society is we had to adapt ourselves and figure out how the Bird, because it’s obviously got popularity and it’s obviously spreading through the country, so it’s going to happen. We have to figure out a way to deal with it.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah. Yeah. Well, what about liability issues, if there’s any kind of an incident or an accident?

David Daggett: Well, there’s all sorts of crazy things to be worked out in that regard. So, and let me back up a little bit. The Institute of Government has issued a paper, an opinion paper, and it’s that one person’s opinion, but it’s coming out of the Institute of Government, on is the Bird a vehicle or not?

Cindy Speaker: Oh, wow.

David Daggett: Yeah, and so that’s important for age restrictions on driving them, on whether they’re subject to traffic laws, whether they’re subject to DWIs. All sorts of things like that. But it’s a little bit funny. If you go to the Bird app, one of the things that you have to do on there, is you have to sign a waiver that you agree to everything. Well, all the … and it’s all done on a smartphone. Well, nobody’s going to read a long waiver. It just doesn’t happen. But part of that waiver is you have to be 18 years old. Well, I’m seeing people on them who aren’t 18 years old.

Cindy Speaker: It’s going to check.

David Daggett:  Who’s going to check? Second is, they require you to … you’re supposed to have a helmet. Well, I’ve seen a lot of people riding Birds. I’ve never seen a single one wearing a helmet, because as a practical matter, you, me … I’m a helmet fanatic with bicycling but I don’t walk around town with a helmet under my arm just in case I’m going to jump on a Bird. I mean, it’s ridiculous and doesn’t make any sense.

Cindy Speaker:  David, hold on a second. Can you … I’m just sitting here thinking, can you imagine our grandparents overhearing this conversation?

David Daggett: Well, that and, you know, a phone that you can carry? You know, yeah. So, yeah. In that, in a way, that’s what the legal system does, is it sorts out these issues and it figures out how we’re going to deal with them. Now what’s interesting in North Carolina, and this is breaking real fast, but Asheville and Greensboro, right here, they have both banned Birds. They’ve said, “Pick them up and get them out of here or we’re going to pick them and impound them.” Raleigh, the council there debated the issue and they said, “No, we’re going to allow them while we try to figure out what regulations we’re going to put in place.” In Winston-Salem, I went running at lunch and they’re still all over town even though it’s 34 degrees and raining. So, but what I’m trying to demonstrate is, is that our … the legal system is how we govern ourselves-

Cindy Speaker:  Yes.

David Daggett:  … in daily activities. We take a lot of that for granted, but places where there isn’t a legal system, they don’t have some of the basic morality that we have just with regard to other people’s property and liberties and those sorts of things.

Well, with the Bird, we’re going to have to sort that out and figure that out. Cities are going to have to figure out, you know, they’re not allowed on sidewalks. They’re only allowed in streets, but if they’re allowed in streets, do you have to have a helmet? Bird says 18, the driving limit is 16. How do … where do you park them? It’s kind of irritating when you’re downtown and you have to walk around Birds that are parked on the sidewalk. Where can and can’t … I know it’s funny, but-

Cindy Speaker:  It is kind of funny.

David Daggett:  But we’re going to … society … the legal system in some way, shape, or form is going to have to work this out and sort out what are our rules and laws with regard to Birds?

Cindy Speaker: Yeah.

David Daggett: That is a kind of foray into the liability issues with Birds. So what if one Bird hits another Bird and somebody’s at fault and somebody gets severely injured or even killed? What if a Bird hits a pedestrian? What if the pedestrian’s at fault and walks out in front of the Bird? What if the Bird’s on the sidewalk? What if the Bird’s on the street? It’s just the analogy, and this has kind of worked itself out through the law, is if a pedestrian goes in front of the bicycle and the pedestrian’s at fault and the bicyclist gets hurt. What happens if the bicyclist runs over a pedestrian in a crosswalk, you know, what happens? We have the same thing regarding Birds, and the legal system is actually going to sort that out.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah.

David Daggett:  So, you know, the great big giant nerd I am, I took my nerd and tried to apply it to Bird, and I got out the book with all the insurance policies and I’m going through all these insurance policies and you know, insurance policies differ in their definitions. I think some of this is going to have to work its way through the legal system also.

So, let’s just take the hypothetical situation. Somebody’s riding a Bird on the street. They hit a pedestrian in the crosswalk, severely injure the pedestrian resulting in large medical bills and lost wages. How does the pedestrian get paid for that? On the Bird, is that … when you’re driving a Bird, are you covered by your automobile insurance?

Cindy Speaker:  Right, right.

David Daggett: Well, some automobile policies use the word auto. Some policies use the word motor vehicle. Some use, and this is in different places in different definitions so I am taking what would fill this room with books and trying to squeeze it down, but some places it’s called a motorized land conveyance. So all these different terms are used in our auto policies. Does that cover you? I would argue that it’s no different than renting a car. Your car insurance covers you when you rent a car. You’re renting a motorized Bird. I think there’s a strong argument that your auto coverage covers you.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett: The flip side is if you have renters insurance or homeowners insurance. Now, if you’re walking in the crosswalk and I negligently walk and run into you, my homeowners insurance would step in to pay your medical bills and lost wages. Does that apply with a Bird? Well, homeowners insurance does not cover you in a motor vehicle. Is the Bird a motor vehicle or not a motor vehicle? So there’s-

Cindy Speaker: This is fascinating.

David Daggett: Yeah. A lot of these definitions are going to have to work their way through the legal system. Going back to the Institute of Government, they think that a Bird will be considered a motor vehicle.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

David Daggett: So, now some municipalities and governmental districts, they have special laws and regulations for Segways. You familiar with the Segways?

Cindy Speaker: Yes. Yes.

David Daggett: The little two-wheeled thing that you stand on?

Cindy Speaker:  Right.

David Daggett: And perhaps that’s a template for us going forward-

Cindy Speaker: Yeah, that would make sense.

David Daggett: .. with similar sort of regulations to cover the Bird. But we’re going to have to sort all this.

Cindy Speaker: I love that you’ve kind of gone through this with the nerd hat and thought through this far ahead. It’s very interesting.

David Daggett: Well, in addition to this, in addition to all that, remember that most of us have either un-insured or under-insured motor vehicle coverage on our vehicle. I am almost positive that if a pedestrian gets hit by a Bird and the Bird does not have insurance, the un-insured or under-insured coverage … my argument is, and I think we win on it, that would apply.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett:  In fact, on all the insurance coverages, that’s the one I’m most sure of. These others are going to evolve. I’m positive there’ll be cases on them.

Cindy Speaker:   Oh, I’m sure.

David Daggett: And it’s something we’re going to have to sort out as a society. An interesting thing, and I speak to high school classes a lot, and there are three ways to regulate society. By executive order, by the legislative powers of the legislative branch, or by the private legal system.

Cindy Speaker: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

David Daggett:In this sort of situation, I think you’re going to have all three come into play at some level to help sort out the laws going forward as to how we deal with the Birds. If the Birds are successful, there’s already another one, Lime. There’s the Limes bikes in some cities that are the bikes you can check out and rent. Lime is now getting into scooters to compete with the Birds.

Cindy Speaker:  Wow.

David Daggett:  So if Birds are successful, you know, there’s going to be another one. Just like Uber was successful, and now there’s Lyft.

Cindy Speaker: Yes.

David Daggett:  So it’s going to happen.

Cindy Speaker:  Yes.

David Daggett: So the responsibility on us, and by pointing at myself, those of us in the legal system, we need to help usher and guide this new societal happening in a way that we properly and fairly regulate it. Because obviously, there’s a lot of positives. Just like I saw in Raleigh the other day. The flip side is there’s some dangers and concerns and then there’s a couple of the ridiculous things like nobody’s going to walk around carrying a helmet under their arm.

Cindy Speaker:  Right.

David Daggett:  So, we have to sort all that out.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah, yeah. In the short term, what are your recommendations for those that want to take advantage of this opportunity?

David Daggett:  So if you’re going to use a Bird, number one, use extreme caution. I would say that same thing that I tell people in riding bicycles. You’re more exposed, you’re more dangerous. Motorists are not used to them yet. I think the areas who have enacted ordinances, the Birds are not allowed in the sidewalks.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

David Daggett: They’re allowed in the street and in bike lanes. So I think you should be using them on the edge of the road, just like you would a bicycle, or in a bike lane. Pretend you’re invisible just like on a bike. Motorists are not going to be used to seeing you and they’re not going to expect you to be there. So pretend you’re invisible and use extreme caution. Then, follow all traffic laws. Obey all traffic laws. Be very, very careful at crosswalks. Be courteous to others. Be a good ambassador for the Bird.

For motorists, be aware that they’re out there. And it’s interesting because when the Birds landed, they all landed downtown. The Birds are making their way in other places around town also. So, you know, they could show up anywhere. And they’re kind of ingenious. They have a headlight that comes on when you’re operating them, and I think they’ll go as high as 15 miles an hour, with a range of up to 15 miles.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

David Daggett: Which may not seem that far, but I think riding a scooter, that’s an extraordinary distance.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah. Right.

David Daggett:  So that’s a long ways.

Cindy Speaker: Very interesting.

David Daggett: So I think we all need to be very, very aware. We all need to be on the lookout. You know, just like any other issue in society, this isn’t something to have a knockdown, dragout fight over who’s right, who’s wrong. It’s something we need to come together on, do the best we can to keep each other safe and hopefully it’s an asset that adds to society. People can have some fun with it.

You know, the one thing we have in town, I think we’ve got nine micro breweries now just in Winston-Salem. There’s quite a few micro breweries in Greensboro and the surrounding areas. Don’t come out of a bar and think you jump on your Bird and you’re safe, because that’s probably a very bad idea.

Cindy Speaker: Yes. Yes. For sure.

David Daggett:  Yeah.

Cindy Speaker: David, this really an interesting discussion.

David Daggett: Well, we’ll have to provide an update because-

Cindy Speaker: Yes, absolutely.

David Daggett: The Birds are evolving as we speak, all over the Triad area.

Cindy Speaker: Very interesting. Well, David, if someone want to reach out to you, how can they do that?

David Daggett:  Yeah, the best way, all sorts of resources on our website. We’ll probably put a link to a transcript of this live portion on our website at daggetshulerlaw.com and obviously can call us at 336-724-1234.

Cindy Speaker: Very good.

David Daggett: In the meantime, be careful if you’re playing around with Birds.

Cindy Speaker:  I won’t be. But you might.

David Daggett:  I might. I might, yes.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

David Daggett: But remember, I get to choose whether I’m the young guy or the old guy. So I might choose to be the young guy.

Cindy Speaker: Right. Right. Oh, thanks for being with us, David.

David Daggett:  Thank you, Cindy. Good to see you.

Cindy Speaker:  You too.

For those of you watching, leave your comments, leave your questions. David’ll answer them for you, and thanks again for being with us. Bye everybody.

 

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