Lincoln City Council
Electric scooter rentals considered

Send a link to a friend  Share

[February 12, 2021] 

Tuesday evening Lincoln aldermen discussed the pros and cons of allowing the Bird Rides Inc. to plant scooters for rent in the city. The scooters are the typical stand and ride type.

The request to permit the scooters would include having a central location – one or more - for people to rent the scooter utilizing an app on their cell phone. The scooters would cost $1 to unlock and $0.30/minute thereafter until the scooters are once again locked.

The electronic lock would enable the scooters to be parked and locked anywhere in town. Once locked electronically, they cannot be utilized until a new fee is paid.

Acting Mayor Tracy Welch explained that Bird had spoken with himself and City Administrator Beth Kavelman about the program and that information had been included in the agenda packets.

Kavelman said that she could see the scooters as an asset to college students getting off the train in Lincoln. She said scooters could be rented and students could then drive themselves back to campus. The scooters would then be left at the campus and a Bird employee would pick them up at the end of the day.

As the discussion began, City Attorney John Hoblit said that he would have some concerns for the safety aspects of the scooters and traffic safety. He said he would want to research the city’s liability. Though he believed it was probably not a significant issue, he felt that research was called for before making a decision.

Ron Keller asked Police Chief Paul Adams to weigh in on the scooters. Adams said first of all, the city does not permit bicycles on sidewalks. The scooters would fall into a close category with the bikes, so the city would have to make some changes in their codes as to what was permissible. Adams said he was also concerned about speed safety.

The scooters are not high speed vehicles, so in speed zones above 25 mph, there would be traffic safety concerns.

Welch explained that the scooters could not be rented by youngsters. The renter must be 18 years of age, have a valid credit or debit card and a cell phone for activation.

He said he would hope that people would not drive the in lanes of traffic and that the scooters are not meant to be driving in high traffic areas.

Welch added that if the bikes are parked on a sidewalk and causing a nuisance, anyone can contact the local Bird representative and report the issues. He said that the city could allow the scooters, and if it didn’t work out, the allowance could be reversed. He said the contract that Bird showed him and Kavelman included an escape clause.

Welch explained that the way the system would work, is that Bird would be the provider for a local person who wanted to start the business in Lincoln. He said it was a turnkey business with little overhead. The local person running the business would be responsible for maintaining the scooters mechanically. The scooters would be taken to a “nest” in the morning of each day and at night, the business manager would pick up all the scooters and take them in for maintenance. The next day then, the scooters would go back to their nest and so on and so forth.

Steve Parrott said that he has visited a number of college campuses, and has not seen the scooters in his travels. He said he couldn’t see that the scooter would be of benefit to college students coming off the train because it would not enable them to carry their luggage.

Sam Downs inquired about Driving under the Influence. He wondered if the drivers could be ticketed. Because the scooters do not require the driver to have a license, generally speaking there would be no moving violation. However, Hoblit said there is an exception for vehicles that exceed 20 mph in speed. Drivers under the influence exceeding that speed limit can be ticketed with or without a license.

[to top of second column]

Jeff Hoinacki said that the city might review other municipalities where the services are offered. He questions the city’s responsibility and would Bird be responsible for damage to city property as a result of the scooters. He noted as an example chipped curbs. He also wondered if the city could impose a permit or licensing fee, perhaps a fee to operate and an additional fee per scooter.

Welch said that the company had provided a Memorandum of Understanding template for the city. In that MOU it states that the city shall be held harmless of liability and that Bird will provide the city with proof of insurance. In the MOU it states that Bird shall carry Commercial General Liability of no less than $1,000,000 and automobile coverage of no less than $1,000,000.

Kevin Bateman said that aldermen should realize that the company is only asking for permission to come to Lincoln and that it doesn’t mean it will.

Aldermen also talked about how many of the scooters would be in town. Welch said that Bird had studied the demographic and felt there was a market for 50 to 100 scooters. Some of the aldermen thought that would be way too many especially if they were parked at various locations on the city square.

Ron Fleshman said he could see the potential for the scooters being a nuisance in residential areas as well if they were left in driveways and caused an inconvenience for residents.

Kavelman said that the company does provide “driver training’ and also monitors the use of the scooters electronically. Welch agreed and said that the company will lock out anyone who abuses the rental agreement or causes a problem for others with the scooters. He said the scooters could be locked and the rider/driver reprimanded. If abusive or neglectful behavior continued, the same rider/driver could be permanently denied access to the scooters.

Talking about the potential for the scooters to be driven in high traffic or higher speed areas such as Woodlawn Road west of town, Welch said that he had spoken with Bird and there is a potential to set up “geo fencing” that would render a scooter unworkable at certain points. He said he wasn’t sure how that would work, but that a fence could be installed to keep the scooters from being driven in higher speed areas.

Parrott asked about the “nests” and wondered if the company wanted to nest the scooters on city property. He also wondered if the scooters had to be taken to a nest when finished. He said that would defeat the purpose for college students if the scooters go back to where they were picked up.

With comments from aldermen appearing to be less than positive Welch commented, “We can come up with 50 reasons not to give it a chance.” He went on to say he felt that it could be an opportunity and with the escape clause if it doesn’t work out, the permit for the scooters can be pulled and Bird can move on to another town.

It was suggested that more research and consideration be given to the request. The city will take up the topic again at a future committee of the whole meeting.

Bird website
Bird - Enjoy the Ride

City of Lincoln Committee of the whole agenda packet - Pdf
Information on Bird Rides, Inc starts on page nine

[Nila Smith]

Back to top