Eastpointe almost ready to roll on electric scooter plan

By: Brian Louwers | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published December 22, 2021

 The Eastpointe City Council is considering an agreement that could bring up to 50 “Bird Zero” electric scooters to the city as soon as this spring.

The Eastpointe City Council is considering an agreement that could bring up to 50 “Bird Zero” electric scooters to the city as soon as this spring.

Photo provided by Bird Rides Inc.

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EASTPOINTE — A flock of Birds might be coming to Eastpointe next spring.

On Dec. 7, members of the City Council heard a presentation from a representative of Bird Rides Inc., the company behind an array of “first and last mile” shared electric vehicles on the streets of many Michigan cities. The list includes neighboring St. Clair Shores and Detroit, along with Ypsilanti, Pontiac, Battle Creek, Lansing and other locations.

If approved by the council, the agreement would bring an initial fleet of 50 “Bird Zero” electric scooters to Eastpointe, where they would be charged, maintained, repositioned as necessary and, ultimately, warehoused at the end of the season by a local third-party Bird partner.

“We pioneered and founded, really, the shared scooter and shared mobility space 4 1/2 years ago. Our ultimate goal was to eliminate unnecessary car trips,” said Garrett Gronowski, a Bird senior account executive.

The company defines an unnecessary car trip as anything less than 2.5 miles, something that can be supplemented “by another form of transportation, something more sustainable.”

Gronowski said Bird is “dedicated to bringing affordable, environmentally friendly transportation solutions to communities everywhere.”

Riders access a list of available scooters through a phone application. In the app, they can see the location of each available Bird, view tutorials and learn about scooter etiquette. The rules correspond with the rules for bicyclists in each community. There is a maximum speed of 15 mph. No helmet is required to rent a Bird, although the company makes them available for free for users, who pay only shipping and handling. Riders must be 18 to use the scooters.

Each scooter has a QR code that is used for activation. It costs $1 to unlock each Bird for use and then fees accumulate each minute as a “time-based meter.”

Available programs offer discounted rates for veterans, seniors and those in need of financial assistance.

The Bird scooters are dockless, which means they can be placed anywhere in the city, with no additional infrastructure requirements. Gronowski said they usually go where bike racks are, or near other modes of transportation.

The local partner, a Bird “fleet manager,” is responsible for keeping the scooters running and “strategically” placing them where they will get the most use.

“At the end of the day, we’re a data company. The longer we run operations, the better we get at it,” Gronowski said. “We see hard data, we see trends and we respond to it, as well.”

Software and GPS tracking limit the range of the Birds to the area of service. They can cross municipal borders only when both communities agree to use the service. The software can also restrict parking in unwanted areas, govern speed and prohibit operations in defined areas at the municipality’s discretion.

The service costs the city nothing.

“I think it’s a pretty exciting, pretty cool project. I’ve certainly used them before, and I think a lot of people do,” City Councilman Cardi DeMonaco said.

DeMonaco said his only request would be for the city to consider limiting where the scooters can be parked and left.

“I think if we put something good together there, it seems like a pretty cool little thing for our city then,” he added.

Councilman Harvey Curley urged his constituents who might question the usefulness of the program to keep an open mind.

“Come on, give it a chance,” Curley said. “It’s exciting, something new to our city that we have never had, did we? Let’s give it a chance. Let’s be positive about it, and it will work.”

The City Council tabled action while the final details, including area restrictions, are drafted and incorporated into a revised agreement that could come back before the council at the next meeting Jan. 4.

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