Bird, the electric scooter sharing company that got booted out of Louisville last month, returned to the streets last week after reaching a temporary agreement with the city. The new deal allows Bird to rent out 100 of its dockless scooters to riders throughout most of Louisville Metro for the next 30 days.
The California-based company has already had success with short-term operating agreements in other cities, such as Memphis.
Many cities have needed to figure out how to regulate the scooters after their arrival. The devices can be left anywhere because they are locked and unlocked using an app. That means governments need to decide where to allow their use and where they’re allowed to park.
The 30-day agreement permits people to drive the scooters throughout most of Louisville Metro, inside the Watterson Expressway. It also requires Bird to pay the city $1,000 for use of the right-of-way as well as $50 per scooter that can be used for repairs to public property required because of scooter damage.
The city of Memphis also entered a short-term agreement with Bird, and prepared a “shared mobility” ordinance that would cover rentals of scooters, bikes and electric bikes. The 200 Bird scooters that the company brought to Memphis in June came from up the highway in Nashville, which had just kicked them out.
The difference in approach represents two ways cities can react to new technologies such as scooters, said Sam Reed, a consultant for Bird who oversees Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio.
“We are fully operational in Memphis under both an operating agreement and an ordinance in the city, and in Nashville we anticipate we’ll be back on the road in about two-and-a-half weeks after the ordinance is passed,” Reed said.
Last week, the Nashville Metro Council moved forward an ordinance that would set rules for electric scooters and bicycles. It would limit the number of vehicles from a single company to 1,000.
Reed said Bird will hire a community manager in Louisville and continue working with the city. The company is encouraging riders to wear helmets and to ride the scooters, which can be locked and unlocked using a smartphone app, on roads and in bike lanes.
“Having dockless scooters in a city will help folks to start to recognize the importance of bike lane infrastructure if they didn’t already, and many cities do already,” Reed said.
Bird will also pay a dollar-a-day per scooter to the city of Louisville, which can use the funds to build bike lanes. Reed said the company is accruing that money and will pay it quarterly.