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Praise, complaints and a couple of injuries -- the jury’s still out on those new scooters

Since electric scooters zoomed onto the streets of Raleigh last month, they’ve proven very popular with riders. But they’ve also brought some nuisance complaints and safety concerns.

At least two people have been injured riding the scooters from the Bird company.

Both of the accidents — one occurring on July 21 and the other on July 28 — involved people riding the scooters on Hillsborough Street. Each of the riders was hospitalized. Neither was wearing a helmet, said Donna-Maria Harris, a spokeswoman for the Raleigh Police Department.

Calls to the riders were not returned.

By comparison, Raleigh saw more than 40 vehicle accidents on July 21 and more than 60 on July 28.

Bird in a tree
An electric Bird scooter was spotted in a tree along Wilmington Street. The electric scooters arrived in parts of Raleigh, including downtown, in July. Steven Tomany

The Bird scooters are primarily in downtown Raleigh, Cameron Village and the Oberlin area. The dockless scooters can be left in any public spaces after use. They are similar to the bright Lime bikes found around N.C. State University’s campus.

People use their smartphones and the Bird company’s app to unlock the scooters to ride them. It costs $1 to unlock the scooter and 15 cents per minute after that.

They can reach speeds of up to 15 miles per hour and are picked up at night to be charged.

The city of Raleigh has discussed the scooters with the California-based Bird, but there is nothing new to report about possible regulations, said Raleigh Transportation Director Michael Moore.

“I would prefer not to get into detail nor make any comments until our discussions and our research are more compete,” he said in an email.

The city did not coordinate the launch of the scooters with Bird. The company tends to arrive in cities unannounced. In some places, the scooters have been forcibly removed for not following city permitting processes.

Moore wouldn’t confirm that the city considers the scooters as mopeds under state law — which would mean riders are required to wear a helmet. That was something the city’s transportation department tweeted in July.

According to the rules people agree to before riding, riders must wear a helmet and are responsible for any injuries or damages. Despite that, hardly anyone riding the scooters downtown wears a helmet.

No citations or charges have been filed concerning the scooters, including any driving while impaired charges. But Raleigh police confirm that it is possible to get a DWI while on a Bird scooter.

A handful of complaints about the scooters have come through the city’s resident portal SeeClickFix, which allows people to submit problems in the city such as a neighbor’s grass being too tall or obstacles in the sidewalk.

One anonymous poster said they “took a bad fall” on Hillsborough Street after tripping over two scooters and that the scooters needed to be brighter and not left on the sidewalk. The city responded and said it contacted Bird.

This issue has been forwarded onto Bird and requested they provide better direction and enforcement of their parking requirements that exist under their terms and conditions of use,” according to the city’s post.

Others complained the scooters were being left on sidewalks, sometimes making it difficult for pedestrians and people in wheelchairs to navigate.

“The things are a nuisance,” said one anonymous poster. “People riding on the sidewalks is bad enough, but a group of ‘hipsters’ riding the Bird scooters the wrong way on Hillsborough Street into oncoming traffic.”

Anna Johnson; 919-829-4807; @anna_m_johnson

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