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Electric scooter idea scoots ahead in Alexandria

A proposed memorandum of understanding would allow Bird Rides to operate as a ride-share program within the city limits on a one-year trial basis.

Bird Scooter.jpg
Electric scooters from Bird Rides are being proposed for Alexandria. They could be used in the same places that bicycles are allowed within the city limits. (Contributed photo)

A proposal to start a ride-share electric scooter program in Alexandria is still in play.

Back on Aug. 23, the Alexandria City Council talked about the idea before tabling it in order to have more time to study the possibility.

A representative from Bird Rides, the company that would run the scooter program, has since contacted the city for an update.

At its Monday, Oct. 11 meeting, the council voted 5-0 to direct city staff and the city attorney to review the proposal or come up with alternative options. Eventually, the city’s legislative committee may also consider it.

The proposed memorandum of understanding would allow Bird Rides to operate as a ride-share program within the city limits on a one-year trial basis.

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Several Minnesota cities have recently authorized Bird Rides to operate in their jurisdictions, including Brooklyn Park, Mankato, Marshall, Grand Rapids and Albert Lea, according to City Planner Mike Weber.

There would be no direct cost to the city, Weber said.

Bird Rides uses a GPS “geo-fencing” component that will prevent the scooters from operating in areas that the city doesn’t want them used.

Riders pay a fee, charged to their credit or debit card, through Bird’s app, which may include a ride start fee. Fees are based on distance or time, along with a required minimum fee. Pricing is subject to change.

Council members still have questions about how the system would work, such as if the scooters would be allowed downtown or on city streets that are also designated as state or county routes.

City Attorney Tom Jacobson said other cities have imposed age limits and driver license requirements.

Mike Butler, representing Bird Rides, attended the Aug. 23 meeting via Zoom and said that other cities, such as Marshall and Grand Rapids, faced similar situations as Alexandria, with streets that also serve as state highways, but they ultimately decided to allow the scooters. He said about half of the cities the company has agreements that allow the scooters on trails.

On its website , Bird Ride said its "micromobility" program emphasizes safety and sustainability, and would improve air quality by reducing the number of cars on the roads. Every Bird on the road results in about 1,500 pounds of avoided carbon emissions each year, the company said.

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Under the proposed agreement, the city or Bird Rides would have been able to terminate the agreement at any time without cause, upon 30 days of written notice.

Other details that were proposed in the agreement:

  • The agreement applies to any proposed deployment of stand-up electric scooter sharing systems within Alexandria.

  • The scooters will be governed by rules applying to bicycles and are to be ridden on the street, and where available, in bike lanes and bike paths.

  • Scooter drivers must be 18 or older.

  • Bird Rides will provide contact information, including a toll-free telephone number, on each scooter for members of the public to make relocation requests or to report other issues.

  • The scooters will be available for rent from 4 a.m. to midnight.

  • Bird Rides will provide a minimum of 50 scooters when the program is launched.

  • Bird Rides will provide materials, videos and signs to promote safe and courteous riding and parking.

  • Bird Rides will provide data to the city as necessary to help with monitoring the program’s use.

  • Bird Rides will hold the city harmless from any actions, damages or claims brought against the city arising out of Bird Ride’s negligence.

  • Bike Rides will provide the city with proof of insurance coverage, including commercial general liability coverage of at least $1 million for each occurrence.

According to the company’s website, Bird is operating in more than 300 cities worldwide.
The speed of the scooters wasn’t discussed at the council meetings but some online sites say they can go about 15 miles per hour.

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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