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Electric scooters on Alexandria streets? City ponders ride-share program

At its meeting Monday night, the Alexandria City Council considered and then tabled an action that would have allowed Bird Rides to operate a ride-share scooter program within the city limits for one year.

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)

The possibility of allowing electric scooters on some city streets was considered and then tabled at Monday's Alexandria City Council meeting.

The council wants more time to study the idea.

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

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.

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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.

After council member Roger Thalman made a motion to approve the agreement to trigger some discussion, he asked Alexandria Police Chief Scott Kent for his thoughts.

Kent said several questions needed to be answered – would they be allowed on Broadway or state highways? Would they be allowed on the Douglas Area Trails Association trails? Which city ordinances would need to be changed? He suggested the council have an open discussion on the topic to find the answers.

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

City Attorney Tom Jacobson agreed with Kent that the council should take a closer look into the details before approving an agreement.

The council followed Kent's and Jacobson's advice, voting unanimously to table taking action.

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.

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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 was not discussed but some online sites say they can go about 15 m.p.h.

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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