Transportation

Kansas City Strikes Deal on Electric Scooters

As many as 500 Bird scooters are now allowed on city streets during a six-month pilot in which Kansas City will gather information on users and community impact.

by Bill Turque, The Kansas City Star / August 1, 2018
Shutterstock

(TNS) — The Birds will continue flocking to Kansas City under the terms of an interim agreement with the Los Angeles-based scooter rental company, city officials announced Tuesday.

The six-month deal with Bird Rides, Inc. could allow as many as 500 of the Uber-style, dockless electric scooters on the city streets while giving officials time to evaluate their impact and perhaps develop a more extensive pilot program.

The 11-page agreement spells out the rules of the road for scooter users. They will be subject to the same traffic laws that must be observed by bicyclists, meaning, for example, a $40 fine plus court costs for riding on sidewalks or failure to use a bike lane.

Helmets are recommended but not required.

“The emphasis at this early stage is education,” city spokesman Chris Hernandez said in an e-mail. “This is new technology, and a new transportation option, so we, both the city and Bird, are working to educate riders about safe riding.”

The city will also get some revenue from the agreement.

In addition to the standard $500 commercial fee, Bird will pay $1 per day for every scooter on the street.

City Hall, which loves to vacuum up data, is also asking for demographic information on users, including age, gender and purpose of trip.

Earlier this month Bird quietly dropped about 100 scooters into the city without advance notice or regulatory clearance, following a guerrilla business model it has used in at least 20 other municipalities.

Some cities, including San Francisco and Denver, gave the scooters the boot until formal terms could be worked out. Kansas City, eager to hang with the cool kids, took a more lenient approach.

The city also emphasized that the same interim operating agreement was available for other scooter companies interested in coming to Kansas City.

In St. Louis, for instance, Lime-S electric scooters will enter the market this week, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Apparently, it is arriving about a week after the city forced Bird to remove its scooters because it didn’t file the required paperwork.

In KC, riders locate the nearest Bird scooter with a smart phone app, pay a dollar to unlock it and then 15 cents per minute. The scooters last about 15 miles before needing to be recharged. Using GPS, the company pays workers to pick them up, charge them and return them to “nests” set up around the downtown, the Crossroads and other areas.

Mayor Sly James predicted that Bird is just the leading edge of a scooter wave.

“We haven’t begun to see the impact of this,” said the mayor, speaking at the City Council’s Tuesday work session. James said scooters were “all over the place” on recent visits to Washington, D.C. and San Diego, with “pedestrians ducking and dodging.”

“The rules of the road don’t seem to matter much,” he said.

©2018 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.