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Modesto, Calif., Considers Electric Scooter Rentals

The pilot program that is under consideration is for 12 months, with a 12-month extension option, and is with Bird Rides, a Santa Monica-based company that provides electric bicycles and scooters.

Modesto, Calif.
(TNS) — The City Council on Tuesday will consider a pilot program for electric scooters that people can rent with a smartphone app.

The pilot program is for 12 months, with a 12-month extension option, and is with Bird Rides, a Santa Monica-based company that provides electric bicycles and scooters. Bird sells the bikes and scooters to consumers but also operates rental programs in about 400 communities throughout the world, according to a company official.

The scooters would be for riders at least 18 years old, who must ride in the street and stay off the sidewalk, according to the agreement between Bird and the city.

The California Vehicle Code states riders need to have a driver's license or permit, not carry passengers and use bike lanes on streets where the speed limit is greater than 25 mph, according to a city report.

The scooters are placed in central locations. People then rent them, ride them and park them at their final destination. (They are not supposed to leave them strewn in the street or sidewalk, creating a hazard.)

Bird hires a local fleet manager to operate the program. The manager collects the scooters at the end of the day, services them — including recharging them — and puts them back in the central locations.

Bird would pay Modesto 10 cents for each ride. The city report estimates that could bring in $10,000 annually. That works out to 100,000 rides in a year.

Bird would start with 100 scooters and could add more based on demand and city approval. Bird would start its pilot program in downtown and its nearby neighborhoods, according to its operational plan, and would expand as the scooters gained popularity.

The scooters would be restricted to an area bordered by Pelandale-Claratina Avenue to the north, Oakdale Road to the east and Dale Road to the west. The southern boundary generally follows Highway 132 but includes parts of South Carpenter Road and Paradise Road.

Mike Butler, a Bird Rides official, said at the Dec. 6 City Council Economic Development Committee meeting that the typical scooter user is 19 to 39 years old and rents them for fun, getting to school, work, the gym or a trip to the coffee shop or restaurant.

Butler was enthusiastic about coming here. "There is no question in our mind, Modesto is a good fit," he said at the committee meeting.

Bird operates in Tracy. Ed Lovell, the city's transit manager, told The Bee in December that "for the most part, it's been overall fairly positive."

Lovell said users pay $1 to unlock a scooter and then 30 cents for every minute they use them.

He said the main concerns had been scooter riders carrying passengers, kids without licenses or instruction permits renting scooters and people riding on sidewalks. He said the scooters have a device in them that prevents them from going faster than 15 mph.

He said theft, vandalism and renters leaving the scooters in the street or sidewalk had not been issues. He said the scooters have GPS tracking systems and alarms that go off if someone tries to take one.

In other action, the council is expected to:

— Accept a $1.72 million grant from Project Homekey, the state initiative to house homeless people or those at risk of homelessness. The grant is for the James Street Apartments, a recently constructed seven-unit complex. This a partnership between the city, Stanislaus Equity Partners, Stanislaus County Affordable Housing Corp. and county Behavioral Health and Recovery Services. BHRS clients will live in the affordable-housing complex.

— Approve holding a June 7 public hearing for the adoption of the city's 2022-23 budget, which starts July 1. The proposed operating budget is $508 million, with a $171.4 million general fund.

— Ratify its recent decision to fill a City Council vacancy at the Nov. 8 election. District 4 Councilman Bill Zoslocki resigned April 20, with about seven months left in his term of office.

The council meets at 5:30 p.m. in the basement chambers of Tenth Street Place. The meeting also will be livestreamed and held over Zoom.

© 2022 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.