On a 5-2 vote, city council on Monday night approved a public hearing and allowed city staff to develop a franchise agreement allowing Bird electric scooters to run on city public property. .
Fargo has also had preliminary discussions with the company, but Public Information Officer Ty Filley said further internal discussions between city staff were needed to look at options. Filley added a presentation to the Fargo City Commission has yet to be requested. Discussions have also taken place with officials at West Fargo.
Company representative Kate Shoemaker told the board that scooters seem to work best in towns the size of Moorhead and are an affordable, environmentally friendly and safe way to increase transit options. for residents, like cycling. The word used by Bird electric scooters is microbility.
Council had several questions, however.
City Councilor Larry Seljevold wondered why the company had to go through “all these hurdles” such as the franchise agreement to open a business in the city. He said other companies were not required to go through such processes.
City manager Dan Mahli said it was because the scooters operated on public rights-of-way and would not be on private property like other businesses.
The city’s charter required a public hearing and a franchise agreement, Mahli added.
Security issues were also raised by Councilor Shelly Dahlquist.
Shoemaker said that in 42 towns the size of Moorhead there had been a total of 15 incidents among all, with the overwhelming majority having no incidents. In information provided to the board, the company said 10 of the incidents occurred in one city, Fairfax, Virginia. Shoemaker also said there had been no insurance claims filed in those 42 cities.
City police have expressed no safety concerns, according to Mahli, as they are treated like bicycles. Shoemaker added that scooters are equipped with headlights and taillights.
Councilor Chuck Hendrickson was recently in St. Paul and noticed students riding scooters. He wondered if the company had started conversations with local college campuses to allow them access to their property.
Shoemaker said Bird electric scooters typically wait for city approval before approaching schools. If the campuses were to decline, the area would be declared “no-traffic zones”.
Councilor Matt Gilbertson, who voted against going ahead with Hendrickson, expressed concern that scooters were haphazardly hanging out on streets and curbs, especially in the summer when students would not be there.
Gilbertson mentioned that the Town of Edina had not renewed its franchise with the company this year and wondered if Shoemaker knew how many towns had made similar decisions.
She said she didn’t have those stats, but said sometimes cities take a break from operations until they can fix problems.
Council members Heather Nesemeier and Deb White questioned whether low-income residents would also have access, as it might be an option for them to take city buses or work.
Shoemaker said one or two of the company’s fleet managers will deploy scooters to popular locations and be able to service those residents. The current plan is to operate the scooters downtown, along the Red River Corridor and in neighborhoods near the city’s colleges.
To ride, there is a $ 1 registration fee and a user agreement to sign, then a per-minute fee paid through its app. Hours of operation are 4 a.m. to midnight. There is no cost to the cities.
Bismarck just signed an agreement with the company, which started in 2017 and currently operates in around 150 cities around the world.