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Davis Journal

Bird Scooters won’t be flying onto Bountiful streets

Nov 29, 2021 01:08PM ● By Tom Haraldsen

Bird Scooters like these in Kearns won’t be coming to Bountiful, as the city council voted against a one-year trial program with the rental company. Photo by Tom Haraldsen

BOUNTIFUL—Five years ago, the Bird transportation company out of Santa Monica, California, began introducing their line of electric scooters to cities and towns around the country and in Europe. More than 100 cities entered into agreements with the company, which sets up for-rent scooters in downtown and residential areas. Riders activate the scooters by use of a charge card, which accesses a flat fee to begin with and then bills on per-minute usage. That first year, the company said it clocked over 10 million rides.

That won’t be happening in Bountiful, as the city council has voted not to enter into a proposed one-year agreement with Bird Scooters for 50-100 electric scooters. Council members were concerned about the use of scooters on sidewalks, problems with GPS accuracy and how the scooters would be maintained during winter months. The city’s steep hillsides also became a factor in the decision not to approve a trial period for the scooters.

“I don’t see the need for these in our city,” said council member Millie Segura Bahr, and fellow council member Richard Higginson said “I’m concerned about clutter. I just don’t think they fit here.”

City Planning Director Francisco Astorga had been approached by Bird about the proposal, and he said that Bird operates under the supervision of a local manager, almost like a franchisee, who is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the scooters. He said that the manager is paid according to usage, and has a vested interest in making sure the scooters are operable and not left clustered in one location. He said the scooters come with a sticker that says “No sidewalk riding,” though that isn’t necessarily easily enforced.

Council members agreed that the scooters would probably only be used in the downtown area, where the land is flat. They aren’t very powerful, can’t go over 15 miles per hour, and would likely prove useless going into the hillside residential neighborhoods. But they are being used in some areas of Salt Lake County such as Kearns where there are hillsides. Riders in that township are generally found on streets, not sidewalks. 

When the company started in Kearns last summer, it committed to parking scooters out of the way of pedestrians and never blocking driveways. Riders are required to be 18 years or older, and are encouraged to wear helmets. The company also agreed to offer free rides to healthcare workers and emergency personnel who sign up in advance, as well as offer discounts to low-income riders, Pell grant recipients, select local nonprofit organizations, veterans and senior citizens.

Bird claims it has proposed operating agreements with Farmington, Kaysville, Syracuse, Midvale, Ogden, Millcreek, Sandy, Eagle Mountain and Orem, and is negotiating with other communities as well. 

Council member and mayor-elect Kendalyn Harris asked Astorga if the city has received any requests for the scooters, which he said it has not. Council member Kate Bradshaw said she saw “a very small, limited application” for the scooter service. The council voted unanimously not to proceed with the program.