IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

E-Scooter Proposal Raises Liability Concerns in Iowa City

City leaders in Davenport, Iowa, have voiced concerns about the introduction of Bird electric scooters to the downtown area. One concern is that the devices could pose a danger in bike lanes.

Bird Scooters
(TNS) — A pitch to partner with electric scooter rental service Bird to bring public scooters to downtown Davenport was met with concerns from the City Council surrounding safety and added burden on the city and police department.

Bird Territory Manager Kate Shoemaker spoke with the City Council Tuesday afternoon during its management meeting to provide information on the company, the scooters and how the company would work with Davenport to introduce public scooters to parts of the city.

Through a pilot program lasting until the end of the year, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company would provide the city with about 100 scooters initially, with the possibility of bumping that number to 300 depending on demand, Shoemaker said.

The scooters, through GPS technology, would be relegated to downtown, the Hilltop area and St. Ambrose University and Palmer College of Chiropractic campuses. They wouldn't be able to go beyond the boundaries of Locust Street to River Drive and Gaines to Federal streets, according to information released last month.

While the aldermen had too many questions to answer in one session, a main concern was safely, and how the company would ensure safe use. Helmets aren't required in Iowa, and while the scooters won't be allowed on certain roads and on sidewalks, they may pose risks in bike lanes.

Ward 4 Alderman Raymond Ambrose said riding a bike on some city streets is dangerous because of potholes and heavy traffic, and said if someone got hurt after hitting a pothole, they could accuse the city of gross negligence, which Shoemaker said the company is not liable for.

Ward 8 Alderwoman Judith Lee agreed and emphasized much of the responsibility of making sure scooters are being used properly will fall on the city, not the company. She proposed a permit process where multiple companies can apply, as Bird isn't the only electric scooter rental service.

"We need to regulate through a permit process," she said. "If we're going to do this, through a permit process up front that puts the responsibility and the accountability on the company, not on the user. And not on the police department."

Aldermen Matt Dohrmann, Ward 5, and JJ Condon, at-large, drafted the ordinance with City Attorney Tom Warner after Bird contacted hem about expanding their business to Davenport.

Dohrmann reminded the council as they wrapped up that as the ordinance has not been placed on any agenda yet, it can be changed as much as needed.

"The ordinance does address a lot of these concerns, and we can always change the ordinance," he said.

©2021 Quad City Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.