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Oct. 1, 2022

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Bird electric scooters landing in Battle Ground

Bird Rides to offer e-scooter rentals in city this summer

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
3 Photos
Bird Rides will begin operations in Battle Ground this summer, bringing 75 e-scooters to the city's streets.
Bird Rides will begin operations in Battle Ground this summer, bringing 75 e-scooters to the city's streets. (Associated Press files) Photo Gallery

Later this summer, Battle Ground will join the very short list of cities in Clark County to offer e-scooter rentals and will be the first city in the county to allow “dockless” e-scooter rentals.

Unlike traditional bike and scooter rentals like Zoot Scoot in Vancouver, these e-scooters won’t have to be returned to a specific location, just left within a designated operating zone.

The city council unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with Bird Rides at its July 5 meeting. The company, which is based out of Santa Monica, Calif., plans to launch with 75 scooters; 50 scooters will be out on the road and 25 scooters will be held in reserve.

With gas prices still well above comfort level for most residents, the company is hopeful Battle Ground residents will explore the benefits e-scooters, or micromobility units as Bird calls them, can offer.

“We are committed to helping people replace car trips with eco-friendly and efficient trips powered by micromobility. Battle Ground seemed like a natural place for us to partner with the city and its residents to help minimize use of cars and to help encourage a mode shift to transportation alternatives that have lower carbon emissions,” a Bird spokesperson said via email Monday.

The city council first discussed the possibility of Bird Rides coming to Battle Ground at its April 18 meeting. Caroline Fraher, from Bird’s city partners team, said the goal is to get people where they want to go and where they need to go.

Coming to Battle Ground before Vancouver may seem unusual to some, but Fraher said the city is right in line with its business model.

“We’re in cities both big and small. You may hear e-scooters and tend to think of large cities like San Francisco, L.A. or Portland, but the vast majority of the cities we work with are between 10,000, 20,000 and 40,000 people. Our bread and butter really tend to be markets of this size,” Fraher said.

Before voting on the agreement, Mayor Philip Johnson expressed some reservations with the program.

“I’m somewhat concerned that the city didn’t ask about just leaving them lay around on the sidewalks, those kinds of things,” Johnson said.

Bird account executive Julianne Roller, who joined the July 5 meeting virtually, said many cities have that same concern.

“We will be working with a local entrepreneur or small business that will be in charge of maintaining the fleet of scooters. They’ll be checking in on the scooters multiple times per day to make sure they’re in the best locations and make sure they’re parked correctly,” Roller said.

Reports of e-scooters left lying across sidewalks, blocking ADA access have plagued similar programs in other cities. In 2019, 57 e-scooters were pulled from the Willamette River in Portland, raising concerns about pollution from the scooters’ batteries.

Fraher assured the city council a dedicated account manager would be assigned to the city and made available to address these kinds of issues. Fraher said riders will also be able to report abandoned or improperly parked scooters on the app.

How it works

Rentals will be completed through the Bird app, available on the App Store and Google Play. The rider will then have to set up a profile and complete the safety tutorials before a rental can be made.

Once that initial setup is complete, the rider scans the QR code on the scooter to complete the rental.

According to Fraher, the e-scooters will be strategically placed around the city, typically in groups of three to five. Once the rider has completed their trip, they just park and leave the e-scooter within the designated zone. From there, the e-scooter will be picked up by the next rider or by a Bird representative.

The cost for a ride depends on the time and distance. Fraher said riders will pay $1 to unlock the e-scooter plus a per-minute fee ranging from 35-45 cents, putting the average cost per ride at $6 to $7.

Bird offers discount rates to low-income riders, select nonprofit and community organizations, veterans and senior citizens. And it provides free rides to health care workers and emergency personnel.

Roller noted each rider must take a picture of their parked scooter to end their ride, which helps ensure they’re left in the correct location and position.

Who is Bird?

Bird Rides might be a familiar name to some. The company was one of three e-scooter operators selected to roll out a citywide e-scooter program in Seattle in May. The company launched in 2017 and now operates in over 400 cities in 25 countries on five continents.

But it hasn’t been strictly easy riding for the micromobility company. In June, Bird laid off 23 percent of its workforce (about 400 employees) in its latest round of cost cutting measures. And in 2021, the company was kicked out of the micromobility pilot program in its hometown of Santa Monica.

For more information about the e-scooter program, how to complete a rental or how to download the app, go to https://www.bird.co.

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