The City of Lincoln City issued citations to an electric scooter company based in California after they dropped off their scooters in town despite being denied use by the city council.
Bird Rides Inc. of Santa Monica, Calif., is a shared e-scooter company that gave a presentation to city council on March 22 in hopes of dispersing about 75 scooters throughout Lincoln City. Representative Michael Covato spoke on Bird Rides’ behalf, explaining that the service is accessed via a mobile app on a smartphone that you can download, complete a safety tutorial, then unlock a scooter near you to ride.
The service costs $1 to begin plus a fee per minute of use. Covato informed council that the scooters would come at no cost to the city and the company would hire a local fleet manager to take charge of the scooters.
“We feel your city could get a significant benefit from using our system,” Cavoto told city council.
Cavato said the company would disperse the 75 scooters strategically at locations such as the Community Center, hotels, etc. Scooters can also disable when taken to certain areas outside of the company’s boundaries, making it easier for the company to manage where they are parked. Users are also required to take a photo of the scooter to prove it is parked correctly.
Councilor Anne Marie Skinner opened discussions amongst the council by revealing some concerns from the city’s perspective.
“At first blush, I’m opposed,” Skinner said. “There was an e-scooter program in Portland… it was a disaster. From my perspective, they are a safety hazard.”
Skinner also brought up the fact that the scooters cannot be taken on roads with a speed limit over 25 miles per hour, which would exclude the use of the scooters near Highway 101 and Devils Lake Road.
“That leaves just the side streets and there aren’t through connections on the side streets, so how are they going to get around if they can’t be on Highway 101?” Skinner asked.
Cavato acknowledged some of the short comings of the scooter program in Portland, but also felt it was not reflective of all scooter programs across the country. He also acknowledged the safety concerns and said the company has done several transit safety studies and found scooters were comparable with bicycles.
“If you feel comfortable having bicycles on the streets of Lincoln City, there shouldn’t be any reason not to feel comfortable having the e-scooters there,” Cavato said.
Cavato also said that the local feet manager will be tasked with making sure scooters are parked appropriately daily and the community can report any issues directly to the company.
Councilor Riley Hoagland asked if there have been successful systems in smaller cities similar to Lincoln City. Cavato said they have had success in small cities on the west and east coasts. In one example, he said they tally roughly 850 rides per week in a city with only 50 scooters.
Hoagland also raised concerns about the highway.
“Our businesses largely don’t exist off the highway, that means taking side streets… the terrain is not flat and it is often without sidewalks off the highway,” Hoagland said.
Cavato said he doesn’t imagine people would take them along the highway, just like a bicycle. He also stated the scooters have been battle tested in cities such as San Francisco and is confident they can handle the coastal terrain.
“Highway 101 does present some issues. It’s not an insurmountable (challenge),” Cavoto said. “We operate in over 150 cities globally at this time. Many of which have similar layouts. Without question I know that we will find solutions.”
Councilor Rick Mark had a different tone than his fellow councilors.
“I would like to be able to give this more consideration,” Mark said.
Mark suggested a work session to allow city staff to look into Bird Rides more in depth and address some of the concerns. Mark made a motion to hold a work session, which was seconded by Councilor Mitch Parsons.
“This sounds like it could be a fun thing for the city to consider,” Mark said during discussions. “I can drive from the casino to Dutch Bros on backgrounds when traffic is heavy and people on scooters could do the same thing. I think there are advantages here that we’re not all considering.”
However, the rest of the council felt they had heard enough and voted against any further discussions. Councilor Mark’s motion failed 4-2.
In the days following the decision, Lincoln City residents reported seeing e-scooters in popular areas such as D River Wayside that were branded with the Bird Rides logo. The city was informed on Wednesday night that the scooters were out and about.
City Council President Judy Casper said they are unsure of how the scooters got there, but told The News Guard that the company had been issued citations for violating city ordinance codes. By Thursday, March 25, all the scooters were removed from the city streets.