By ZEINAB NAJM
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON — Residents can expect to see electric scooters around the city as early as this month after the City Council approved a memorandum of understanding with Bird Rides Inc. April 18.
The plan is to start with 30 standup electric vehicles — or e-scooters — and possibly grow to about 75 based on use. Bird Rides Senior Account Executive Garrett Gronowski presented the proposal to the council where he said the implementation of the program is at no cost to the city.
The standard pricing for rental is $1 plus a per-minute fee, averaging $5.50 per ride. E-scooters will be made available to rent 24 hours a day.
Once riders find an e-scooter — which will be placed throughout the city — they download the Bird Electric Ride app, sign the user agreement, verify their age — which must be 18 years and older — add a payment, complete educational tutorials, and then ride.
The memorandum of understanding said the agreement is until April 22, 2023, with renewals in 12-month periods. Either the city or Bird can provide written notice to the other of an its intention not to renew at least 90 days prior to the end of the then-current term.
Also included in the memorandum of understanding is the regulation of the operation of standup electric scooters which will be done in a manner no more restrictive than city’s regulation of bicycles.
“Standup electric scooters are to be ridden on streets, and where available, in bike lanes and bike paths,” the MOU said, “Standup electric scooters are to stay to the right of street lanes and to offer the right of way to bicycles in bike lanes and on bike paths.”
Users who violate the provisions may be fined by the city consistent with fines for cyclists.
In terms of safety education, Bird Rides must provide education to riders on the city’s existing rules and regulations, safe and courteous riding, and proper parking.
That was a concern Councilwoman Dora Rodriguez had in terms of the app informing users of the safety rules and regulations.
“It’s a little different based on each community. They are customizable for you,” Gronowski said. “We do have a generic that you just push out usually about using bike lanes or whatever the regulation is in that community if there’s no sidewalk riding. We like to highlight that.
“We always like to highlight wearing helmets when you can. We do make helmets available for all riders. You just go in the app and you actually order it and we send it to you for free, you just have to pay for the shipping and handling.”
Gronowski also said that the city’s can pick what it wants to highlight in terms of rules and Bird Rides will curate a message to push out to the community.
Gronowski provided a list of the Michigan cities similar in size to Trenton in which Bird Rides operates, which are St. Clair Shores, Iron Mountain, Midland, Bay City, Battle Creek, Big Rapids, East Point, Ypsilanti, Lansing, Monroe, Saginaw, Pontiac, and Benton Harbor.
Gronowski said the e-scooters are deck-less so no additional infrastructure needs to be implemented in Trenton for Bird to run operations. Physical charging or scooter racks are not needed. All charging and maintenance is done proactively, when the e-scooters are not being used, throughout the day.
“If you have great bike rack infrastructure we can put virtual parking spots in the app where they’ll see the operating zone,” Gronowski said. “You’ll see the available scooters designated by that Bird icon that those are where they’re available to rent and to ride,” he said.
There is also a preferred parking “P” icon that will give a user an address, and a photo of how the e-scooter should look when they get there.
That is an option Trenton can implement, especially if Bird is the only e-scooter provider in the city.
Toward the end of the discussion, Councilman Nelson Perugi asked how long it would be before e-scooters are available in a city similar in size to Trenton.
“Expect adoption to be pretty high right away, especially with the weather breaking in Michigan and spring coming,” Gronowski said. “By the time we get there, we’ll probably be middle of May or end of May, almost June. Expect adoption and utilization to be high when we launch.
Another point Gronowski touched on was weather, saying Bird is a seasonal business and does not operate in the winter. He also said Bird has a weather team that monitors every market.
To watch the presentation go to the city’s YouTube channel.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)