City Council approved a contract with Bird Rides, of California, to provide electric scooters in the city this spring, summer and fall.

City Council approved a contract with Bird Rides, of California, to provide electric scooters in the city this spring, summer and fall.

Photo provided by Bird Rides

Bird scooters to fly around St. Clair Shores this summer

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published April 18, 2021


ST. CLAIR SHORES — After learning more about the features on new e-scooters proposed for city sidewalks and streets, City Council voted 5-0 to approve a contract with Bird Rides to operate a fleet of scooters this summer at no cost to the city.

Councilman John Caron said he was pleased with the features offered with Bird Rides’ scooters that weren’t included with Gotcha, the company that provided scooters on the Nautical Mile in 2020. The fact that new riders are limited to 6 mph, instead of the 15 mph limit experienced riders can use, and include geofencing technology to stop the scooters from being used during large city events, like the Memorial Day Parade, are benefits the company brings to the table, he said.

“If you’re getting close to the expressway, we want them shut down close to the city border, and they do have the technology to do that,” he said. The fact that riders have to document with a photograph where the scooter is parked in order to stop being charged by the company for ride time is also good, he said. “If you did not leave it in a proper location ... they’re going to have a record of it.”

The Gotcha company, which worked with the Tax-Increment Finance Authority to have scooters on the Nautical Mile in 2020, no longer exists. Bird Rides approached St. Clair Shores, asking for the opportunity to offer micro-mobility services in the city.

Michael Covato, a Bird Rides representative, appeared before City Council via Zoom April 5, a few weeks after the contract was first discussed by City Council. Since the initial presentation in March, Assistant City Manager William Gambill said the California-based company agreed to remove the auto-renew language from the contract, so City Council would be able to decide whether to continue allowing scooters in 2022 after a review of the 2021 season. Bird also provided photos to council of the brightness of lights on the scooters, as well as information about the company’s geofencing capabilities.

“This looks fairly visible,” said Councilman Chris Vitale. “I’m feeling better about that.”

While Bird typically instructs users to ride in the street when they open the app, the company agreed to strike that language from St. Clair Shores, giving users the ability to decide whether to use the scooters on the sidewalk or the street. Vitale said he was happy about that change because, although 15 mph may be too fast for a sidewalk, it’s too slow for many of the city’s main streets.

“I don’t want to encourage people to ride on main roads,” he said.

Covato said amateur bicyclists typically travel about 15 mph, which is why that top speed was chosen for the scooters.

Councilman Peter Accica made a motion to approve the contract with Bird Rides for 2021, pending a review by the city attorney.

“I think it’s a good, fresh idea for the city,” he said.

Covato said the scooters would primarily be deployed in areas of the city where riders generally tend to need them and want to use them, most likely business districts. But depending on time of day, day of the week and where people are located when they open up the app, the local area manager will know where to move a portion of the fleet for riders to use.

“We did have a lot of people who enjoyed having the scooters last summer,” Caron said.

Councilman Dave Rubello, who had expressed doubt at deploying the scooters at the March 15 City Council meeting, said he was satisfied with the additional information supplied by the company.

“This was a difficult decision,” he said.

The contract was approved by a vote of 5-0 April 5. Councilwoman Candice Rusie and Mayor Kip Walby were absent, but excused, from the meeting.