Oh my bird! Scooters could be coming to Manistee

A possible agreement between the city and the scooter company, Bird Tours, Inc.. was discussed at the Manistee City Council business session this week, however, no decisions can be made during those sessions.

An email exchange between City Manager Bill Gambill and Bird Account Manager Garret Gronowski before the meeting showed Gambill had requested a Sharing redemption of 25 cents per activation. Bird scooters operate primarily as rentals and have activation fees – they are locked before a person pays – as well as a ride-per-mile fee.

Gronowski replied that “for a community the size of Manistee, I could get approval for (10 cents) a ride”.

Bird’s electric scooters are topped at a speed of 15 miles per hour. They also use sensors and data to determine hotspots or the most popular areas where they are mounted.

A user pays by credit card on an app-based system before being unlocked; there is an additional charge per minute.

Scooters have the ability to go relatively far but are most often not used that way, according to Gambill.

He told the council during Tuesday’s discussion that “I think they can go 20 miles on a charge. But I think people usually use them for a mile or two miles.”

Gambill also noted that it is possible, due to technology, to restrict where scooters can be parked or used.

“It’s possible to geotag certain areas so they can’t go down to the Riverwalk. The way the in-game tech works, they could segregate areas where you don’t want them so (people) can’t ride them. …and things like that,” Gambill said.

Gambill also noted that the town he previously worked for — St. Clair Shores — had Bird scooters.

030822 Manistee City Council Business Session Packet by Jeffrey Harold Zide on Scribd

Bird scooters have been at the center of controversy in cities around the world, reports of head injuries to electric scooters filed without the knowledge of residents or officials.

Gambill acknowledged these issues, but said the behavior of scooter manufacturers as well as the technology inside e-scooters has progressed positively in recent years.

“Technology has come a long way and they started this way of doing (things) where they actually asked the city to contract with them,” Gambill said.

He noted that electric scooter companies like Bird would drop them off and leave them with officials to deal with the fallout.

“….And then the city should figure out how to deal with them because they were placed in the wrong place,” he said, adding that is no longer the case. “So (Bird) hires a local person to rebalance the scooters if needed, there’s a (phone) number and (contact) email so I think it’s been a long way.”

Others at the meeting noted that there were issues early on, but they were resolved fairly quickly.

Zachary Sompels, a planner from Manistee County, noted that when he was in college at Michigan State University, they had Bird scooters. He spoke of his experience.

“I was actually there when they launched Bird scooters there. And at first it was a huge nightmare. The scooters were everywhere…so much with the college kids…so (there were) huge problems. They worked has the contract within two weeks.”

He noted that the contract between MSU and Bird stipulated a user agreement that stipulated that students had to return the bikes to a designated area before a certain time or they would be fined. They were fined by the minute, Sompels said.

Gambill also said that ultimately the person riding the scooter would be held responsible for injuries, misuse or other violations, but that there would be no law preventing a person from suing to hold the responsible city, even if the driver is technically responsible.

He said if the program goes ahead, Bird would hire someone locally to charge the scooters and service them.

Gambill told the council there would be around 50 electric scooters, but only 30 would be available at any one time, to charge and change scooters if needed.

He said electric scooters use sensors for data and the city could decide where they should be parked based on where they are most popular and where it makes sense to use them.

The cost of scooters can be determined by the city.

The News Advocate’s sister publication, the Pioneer in Big Rapids, reported that “An average ride of 15 to 20 minutes will cost users between $5 and $7. It costs $1 to use the scooter, then users must pay additional per-minute charges of approximately 39 cents in Big Rapids.The per-minute rate is determined based on city-specific criteria, according to a Bird spokesperson.

Small towns like Big Rapids have had successes and issues with the Bird electric scooters they have there. Big Rapids residents gave mixed reactions to the rollout of the scooters.

“I think they’re a great addition to the community,” Aubrey Scott told The Pioneer. “People will always abuse [scooters] and make everyone look bad, but for the managers who take care of them, they’re super fun and they add something new and exciting to the city.

The trailblazer reported that Bird instituted regulations, which include mandatory safety training, a “helmet reward program” and an ID that would have to be submitted for enforcement when unlocking the bike. Scooters are for people 18 years and older only. However, nothing would 100% prevent people from breaking the rules.

“I think they’re fine, but earlier (this week) I saw four little kids on top of them who couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10 without adult supervision, trying to cross the street Maple by the bridge,” Sue Ketchum told the Big Rapids newspaper in 2021. “I also had to move one from the middle of Michigan (Avenue) because someone just dropped it there. If used by responsible people in the way they are intended, they would be great.

For the most part, the council was in favor of the idea of ​​electric scooters at Manistee.

Council member Erin Martin Pontiac said the timing is right for electric scooters, given the ever-increasing price of gas.

“I was thinking of buying one myself,” board member Mick Szymanski joked.

A copy of the March 8 Manistee City Council business meeting agenda, which includes more information from Bird, can be found at manisteemi.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/4662.

A recording of the council working session can be viewed at https://manisteetv.com/.

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