The Bird scooters will live to fly another day.
Tuesday, Raleigh leaders debated the new electric scooters, which flocked without city approval to parts of the city in July. Their unannounced arrival has prompted the city to investigate how they should be regulated, from permitting and safety to where they can be driven and parked.
While at least one council member, Dickie Thompson, called for a scooter ban until rules are in place to regulate them, the city ultimately decided to allow the electric scooters to remain. The California-based company will need to meet with city officials and follow regulations within 60 days or risk being banned.
But the rules haven’t been created yet. Raleigh Transportation Director Michael Moore said he hopes to present scooter regulations to the council within 30 days.
The Bird company has placed 150 electric scooters in downtown Raleigh, the southern part of Glenwood Avenue and Cameron Village. Users unlock the scooter with an app on their smartphones and pay $1 per ride plus 15 cents per minute.
The scooters can reach a maximum speed of 15 mph and should be used with a helmet. While they’re not allowed on sidewalks, they can be parked on a sidewalk for the next rider but should be placed out of the way of pedestrians.
Bird did not seek approval from the city before launching the scooters, and Moore said city staff learned about them the same day as they arrived.
Their arrival prompted Raleigh to look at how other cities have regulated the scooters, and Moore explained that state and city laws differ in their approach to the scooters.
Under state law, the electric scooters are considered mopeds and require a title, insurance, a license plate. Riders must have an helmet, Moore said. But under the city’s code, they are defined as a motor vehicle and can’t be driven on sidewalks, greenways or in bicycle lanes, something Bird encourages.
Electric scooters arrived in Charlotte this summer as well, and Raleigh is looking at how they develop their program, which includes defining how many scooters are allowed, where they can be parked and treating them similarly to bicycles.
Council members seemed to be in agreement about setting up a permitting process to allow Bird to use the right-of-way for the scooters.
Permit fees should cover some of the cost of enforcing the rules, Council member Kay Crowder said, which now falls on the police department.
Council member Nicole Stewart, an outspoken advocate for the scooters, rode a scooter, wearing a helmet, to the Raleigh Municipal Building Tuesday morning.
“There’s so much great stuff about Bird that we’re not even considering this today,” she said. “I want to make sure we’re looking at this holistically,”
Thompson said the city can’t be a “toothless tiger” and that Raleigh has to do something that will get Bird’s attention.
“They came in here and started operating without asking anyone anything,” Thompson said.
“That’s how they operate throughout,” Stewart interrupted.
“That doesn’t make it right,” Thompson said. “And if it’s your child or someone else’s child who gets hit after this meeting today than I think we’ll have been shortsighted on this.”