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Raleigh tells Bird and Lime to meet city’s scooter rules as written

Electric Bird scooters have arrived in downtown Raleigh, Cameron Village and Oberlin

Deas Fenderson of Bird scooters gives a quick tutorial on how to use the dockless, electric scooters in downtown Raleigh
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Deas Fenderson of Bird scooters gives a quick tutorial on how to use the dockless, electric scooters in downtown Raleigh

Corrected at 10:05 p.m. Dec. 7, 2018. See details in story.

The future of electric scooter companies Bird and Lime in Raleigh remains unclear.

Both companies responded by a Thursday deadline the city had given them to agree to new rules. But both made changes to the proposed operating agreement the City Council had approved.

The city “cannot accept these changes and has instructed Bird and Lime” to submit the original agreements by Friday, according to Transportation Director Michael Moore.

The News & Observer was unable to determine late Friday if the companies had done that.

Bird and Lime have expressed frustration with Raleigh’s rules.

If they don’t agree to the rules, they will have 72 hours to remove their electric scooters from Raleigh.

The companies brought the scooters to Raleigh last summer without seeking the city’s approval or coordination.

The City Council voted to let the scooters stay on city streets about a month ago but only if the companies agreed to certain guidelines and paid a $300-per-scooter fee. Each company can have up to 500 scooters.

Both companies waited until the last day to respond to the city’s 5 p.m. deadline Thursday.

“After much deliberation and still some uncertainty, Lime has ultimately agreed to sign the agreement and will now begin the difficult work to try and make this a reality for the citizens of Raleigh,” Lime said in a statement. “This agreement will make it harder to deliver affordable, accessible transportation to all members of the Raleigh community.”

Efforts to reach Bird were unsuccessful, but a previous statement read, “The current proposed framework gives us significant pause as it dramatically limits our ability to provide transportation to the community.”

Raleigh’s regulations reaffirm that riders may not ride on sidewalks or greenways. Riders must also be 18 and must follow state and federal laws. They are encouraged to wear a helmet.

Scooters can be unlocked for $1, and then it costs 15 cents per minute to ride. Once a rider has reached a destination, he or she leaves the scooter for the next person to use. Raleigh’s new rules prohibit scooters from being parked or placed within 100 feet of any school zone, and in areas that block building access, bus zones, driveways and curb ramps.

The original rules would have stopped the scooters from being parked on streets without sidewalks, but the rules were changed by the council to allow them to be placed within 2 feet of the curb. Raleigh leaders also changed the rules to allow scooters to be placed on the streets at 5 a.m. instead of 6 a.m.

Twenty percent of scooters will be required to be placed in city-described “communities of concern” and the companies must submit a plan to “reduce barriers to low-income” riders.

The money raised from the scooter fees will help Raleigh cover the cost of enforcing the rules. The city is creating educational material to encourage people to not ride on sidewalks. That educational period will by followed by enforcement by the Police Department.

This story has been corrected to accurately report what Transportation Director Michael Moore said in a Thursday email about the scooter companies’ communication with the city. The companies’ response was reported incorrectly in an earlier version of this story.

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Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has previously covered city government, crime and business for newspapers across North Carolina and received many North Carolina Press Association awards, including first place for investigative reporting. She is a 2012 alumna of Elon University. Reach her at 919-829-4807 or ajohnson@newsobserver.com.
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