The Electric Scooter That Raleigh City Council Can’t Ignore

If you’ve been to downtown Raleigh this summer you’ve likely seen or dodged one of the electric Bird scooters. The device is very simple and can be easily rented by anyone with a smartphone. Simply download the Bird app, scan your driver’s license, scan the QR code on a scooter, put in your credit card information, and you’re off!

The scooters have a maximum speed of 15 MPH. Even if you’re going downhill, you’ll be unable to exceed the speed limit as the scooters “regenerative braking” system will kick in and slow you down. The app walks all first-time users through a short tutorial detailing some basic requirements and rules.

  1. You must wear a helmet when riding the scooter
  2. You must not ride the scooter on sidewalks
  3. You must be 18 and hold a valid drivers license
  4. Only one person may ride the scooter at a time
  5. You must park the scooter in a way that does not block sidewalks, entry doors, and other areas of access

So what’s the problem? People aren’t following these rules. It’s easy to point the finger at the company behind these scooters (Bird), and even at the people riding them. However, at a recent City Council meeting Council Member Nicole Stewart offered an alternative viewpoint.

“There are so many good things about Bird scooters that we haven’t even begun to talk about here. We’re only talking about our fears and our concerns, and they’re real concerns I’ve talked to people about that too, but they’re incredible for your last mile commute. ”
– Councilmember Nicole Stewart

Councilmember Dickie Thompson continued to push for banning the scooters entirely until the city had a policy in place. Councilmember Corey Branch echoed Thompson’s safety concerns and spoke about how he nearly got hit by one while walking to City Hall just earlier. Luckily, Mayor Nancy McFarlane voiced a compromise.

“…a little piece of me wants to see them (Bird Scooters) to keep going. As they’re being used we also learn a lot from that process as opposed to just halting it all together”
– Mayor Nancy McFarlane

Thompson continued to push for the ban despite several council members agreeing with the Mayor that the company could be allowed to operate while the city crafts it’s policy. Councilmember Stewart called the ban a drastic action to which Councilor Thompson responded.

“I don’t think it’s a drastic action, it’s like a toothless tiger. If you don’t take something that’s going to get these folks attention, they’re not going to have any…If it’s your (Stewart) child or someone else’s child that gets hit after this meeting today then I think we’ve been short-sighted here.”
– Councilmember Dickie Thompson

The topic of Bird Scooters has been dominating social media on Raleigh local politics in #ralpol. It’s created tons of social media posts, a handful of stories in the News and Observer, and even an op-ed written by a former candidate for city council (who also declares at the end of the article she’ll be running in 2019!) in support of saving the Bird scooters.

Some City Council members who seemed on the fence about the scooters have taken to social media to declare they’re in support of the scooters. Russ Stephenson posted a picture of him with a Bird scooter on the sidewalk near Cameron Village.

Not only are City Councilors starting to see the value the electric scooters bring, but also that all the challenges aren’t necessarily caused by Bird itself. Councilwoman Stewart called out in the council session that a lack of bike racks and “scooter racks” is also to blame for the vehicles being parked blocking the sidewalk. Further, the city’s lack of protected bike lanes in many areas makes users feel unsafe to ride them on the road. Ironically, in the picture above in Russ Stevenson’s tweet, you can see Nicole Stewart’s point as cars are clogging the street next to Councilor Stephenson and even part of the cars are in the bike lane.

The city is still working on it’s policy for dockless scooters and bikes. Please make sure you email City Council and share your feelings on the issue. A quick simple email can make the difference between these scooters staying in Raleigh, or dockless bike/scooter shares leaving the city. Email them at CityCouncilMembers@raleighnc.gov