The following was co-written and edited by Columbia Missourian editor and reporter Scott Swafford. Click on the link to reach the original article. Photo credit goes to the Columbia Missourian.
The stage is set for Bird scooters to make a return to Columbia and the MU campus.
The Columbia City Council on Tuesday night will introduce an ordinance authorizing a new contract that would allow Bird to bring 500 scooters to town. The contract would require Bird to pay an upfront fee of $10,000 plus $2 per day per scooter deployed as well as a $4 performance bond per scooter to offset any costs the city and MU might incur.
The contract also establishes extensive obligations for Bird and rules for riders. Bird will have to provide the city and MU detailed data on the use of its scooters and any accidents or other violations that occur.
The company also would have to use geofencing to restrict scooters to appropriate areas and to automatically slow them down in others. The maximum speed allowed would be 15 mph.
Riders would be required to use the scooters only on streets and to park them in designated zones or on sidewalks. They cannot park them in a way that does not allow at least 4 feet of clearance on a sidewalk, or 5 feet of clearance downtown.
Riders also would be required to wear helmets and to avoid distractions such as wearing headphones or using a mobile device. They would be required to take pictures of their scooters when they park them at the end of a ride.
Bird would have to halt the use of its scooters by 10 p.m. each day, and their use would be prohibited during snow and other inclement weather.
Both the city and MU would have the authority to impound vehicles that are improperly parked. Bird would have to pay a $100 fee, plus $50 per day of storage before retrieving impounded scooters.
Bird and other companies first brought scooters to town in 2018, but the early relationships between the companies and the city and MU were rocky.
Public Works Director David Nichols first put forward the idea for a pilot program last September, in which the city and MU would form a partnership with a single ride-share company. Nichols said at the time that the new arrangement would allow strict regulation of the scooters and the ability to determine whether they are an asset to the city’s alternative transportation offerings. He had hoped a contract would be in place by January of this year.
MU issued a request for proposals in December and reviewed four responses in February. Negotiations with Bird began in March but were suspended with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic that caused the campus to shut down.
The initial contract would be good for one year but could be automatically renewed for a second and third year. The contract is not binding beyond that.
A final vote on the contract is scheduled for the City Council’s Sept. 21 meeting.