E Scooters

In this Jan. 24 file photo, Bird electric scooters stand ready for use at Jefferson and North Sixth streets. Bird rolled out e-scooters in Meridian Aug. 1.

Better than last time is how city and police officials are describing the electric scooter launch in Meridian.

Around 150 e-scooters were deployed in the city by e-scooter company Bird on Aug. 1. As of Tuesday the city of Meridian had received one complaint, and the police had received none.

That’s a big difference from last fall, when e-scooter company Lime rolled out the same number of scooters in Meridian, Meridian Police Chief Jeff Lavey said. Police received a few dozen complaints before the city asked Lime to remove e-scooters from city streets less than a week after their launch.

“It has been much smoother than it was a year ago,” city attorney Bill Nary said.

Leading up to the launch, Bird staff worked with city employees to educate residents about rider safety. Police also worked with Bird to make sure residents could report problems directly to the e-scooter company, rather than trying to go through the city, Lavey said.

Along with tutorials, the app has a feature called “Community Mode” where people can directly contact Bird with concerns and questions. Bird staff’s average response time to complaints of poorly parked scooters and other safety hazards is just under an hour, Paul Steely White, director of safety policy for Bird, told the Meridian Press on July 31.

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Bird’s contract with Meridian allows the company to initially deploy up to 150 scooters. They can apply to increase that by 100 scooters every two weeks with a maximum of 500 scooters. The city requires Bird scooters get an average of three rides per day in order to expand its fleet, Nary said.

Bird would not disclose ridership numbers to the Meridian Press on Tuesday. When Lime deployed scooters in Meridian last fall, there were about 3,000 unique riders over the first weekend, a Lime spokesman said at the time.

Even with Bird’s smooth rollout, Lavey said he continues to have concerns about e-scooter safety and is worried about introducing them into the city’s traffic flow.

“We have enough traffic concerns as it is,” he said.

Bird’s contract with Meridian lasts until the end of the year, at which point Bird will need to reapply, along with any other interested e-scooter companies. Lime had competed for a contract in Meridian earlier this year, but the city council awarded only one contract, to Bird. Steely White on July 31 said he didn’t know whether Bird would reapply.

Lime and Bird operate in Boise, along with a third company, Spin, which deployed in April. Boise code allows up to three companies to deploy 250 scooters each. On July 15, Boise City Council approved a new ordinance set to reduce e-scooter speeds in designated areas, address accessibility compliance issues, make the devices easier to identify and report reckless riders to law enforcement.

Patty Bowen is the Meridian Press reporter. You can reach her at pbowen@idahopress.com or follow her on Twitter @pattybowenMP.

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