Hoping to alleviate congestion caused by cars and provide an alternative mode of transport in the wake of the L train shutdown, Councilman Antonio Reynoso is teaming up with the company BIRD to make legal e-scooters a reality.
“We have to let new ideas and innovation shine here in the city of New York,” he said, “so that we can start handling the problem of transportation, or the lack thereof, here in the city.”
At an e-scooter demonstration last week, Reynoso explained that BIRD approached him about the legislation. The councilman was immediately interested and began working with them.
Reynoso also clarified that the legislation wouldn’t single out one specific brand. BIRD, just like every other e-scooter and dockless bike company, would have to go through a request for proposals (RFP) process to get access to licensing.
BIRD already imposes its own safety regulations. Their scooters are programmed to go no faster than 15 miles per hour, helmets are available to anyone who wants one, and only those 18 and older are allowed to operate a scooter.
“There’s always a need for regulation though. What we don’t want is unknown scooters in the streets,” Reynoso said. “If we look at what happened with Uber, it came into the city of New York under-regulated and there was a disruption on the taxi and black car services. We want to prevent that type of thing.”
The proposal will be introduced to the City Council’s Transportation Committee “very soon,” said Reynoso, who added it may take a few months to pass.
David Strickland, chief of BIRD’s Safety Council, explained that the scooters will supplement commutes.
“One of the issues, especially cities like New York, is last-mile transportation, or getting from the front of your door to whatever your closest MTA station is,” Strickland said. “Have something like an e-scooter is really an efficient choice because it’s all electric and it gets another car trip off the road.”
“We think that we can be part of the solution to the L train shutdown in terms of either bringing people from the northern parts to the JMZ lines or inter-Brooklyn travel,” said BIRD public relations association Miles Shook said. “These things are intended for one-to-two mile distances, so we view it as either a home-to-work or a home-to-transit stop solution.”
Users can download the free BIRD app, which has a map of available e-scooters in the surrounding area. After a user locates a scooter, they can scan the QR code to unlock the e-scooter for an initial $1 fee. Every additional minute would cost 15 cents.
“So it’s an affordable way to get around,” Shook said. “It’s actually cheaper than a $2.75 subway ride.”
Certain users who are eligible for state and federal assistance, as well as military members and veterans, are eligible for a program that waives the $1 unlocking fee.
Once users have reached their location, they can safely park the e-scooter on the corner or near other bike stations for the next. In Memphis, BIRD places stickers on the ground to signify a safe parking space.
Reynoso said riders will be expected to use existing bike lanes. He said creating a separate lane for them would be unnecessary.
“Safety is always an issue, but we’ve addressed the safety by building out the infrastructure to allow for these to co-exist,” he said. “Safety is an issue with bikes, period. It doesn’t mean we don’t allow.”