No fly zone: City panel votes to remove Bird scooters

Just a few months after they landed on street corners across the city, on Monday, Nov. 19, the Public Safety Committee voted 3-1 to remove all Bird Scooters from public sidewalks.

No fly zone: City panel votes to remove Bird scooters
November 22
00:45 2018

Just a few months after they landed on street corners across the city, on Monday, Nov. 19, the Public Safety Committee voted 3-1 to remove all Bird Scooters from public sidewalks until city officials can come up with a method to regulate use.

Shortly before Labor Day, Bird, an electric scooter rental service with the mission to make cities more livable by reducing car usage, traffic, and congestion, dropped 100 scooters in various locations across the city. While the scooters have grown in popularity among teens and young adults, safety concerns have dominated the conversation since the scooters arrived in the Twin City.

According to Cpl. J.A. Henry with the Winston-Salem Police Department there have been at least three accidents in the downtown area caused by someone riding a scooter. Henry said although no one has been seriously harmed, its only a matter of time before it happens.

“When you’re riding with a Bird in comparison to a car, there is going to be potential for serious injury. We’re also getting repeated calls from the community about them riding on the sidewalks,” said Henry. “We get at least two to three calls every day, and it seems like we’re getting more calls about people doing things on scooters they probably shouldn’t.”

Although there is an ordinance in place that prohibits the use of the scooters on sidewalks, there isn’t any law that allows the scooters to be used in the streets, which can be confusing for riders because they don’t know where they can and cannot ride the scooters.

During the committee meeting, City Council Member James Taylor, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said it is important that they find a way to balance where everyone in the community is happy. Taylor, who is a co-owner of The Chronicle, said, “Some people believe them to be a public nuisance, others, a viable form of transportation. There must be a healthy balance between the two.

“…We want all parties involved to be safe.”

Before making a motion to vote, Taylor went around the table and asked each City Council member to share his or her thoughts on what they should do. Mayor Tempore Vivian Burke said she feels the scooters should be picked up immediately.

“I’ve talked to the city manager about those Bird Scooters, and I think something needs to be done to keep citizens safe. Not only downtown, but when you’re riding down New Walkertown Road and you have someone on a scooter when its dark, anybody could get killed, and its going to cause a lot of problems, so I feel we need to look at getting those scooters off the streets tonight if we could,” Burke said.

City Council Member John Larson, who has voiced his issues with Bird in the past, said for the past three months Bird has operated in the city without license or control. He said ultimately they have to rely on the individual riders to operate within the law, and that has not happened.

“We have to find a way immediately to bring this under control. I’ve had numerous complaints about this. I know it’s all anecdotal, but I have to respond to that,” continued Larson. “I hope Bird would use the opportunity to try to control them a little better, but I don’t know if they have the capacity to do that and I certainly didn’t see the willingness when they first came to this city to aggressively address the problems they knew they were going to have with us.

“So here we are, three months later, now or whatever it has been and the problem only seems to get worse by the day.”

City Council Member and representative for the North Ward, DD Adams, said although she is acceptable to change, she didn’t like the way Bird came into the city unannounced. She said she also raised issues with the scooters being used in the streets.

“I’m with Ms. Burke because over the past two months, I’ve probably had 10 situations where I almost lost my life or I almost ended someone’s else life because of a child on a scooter coming down University Parkway or a major intersection like Northwest Boulevard, Reynolda Road, Polo Road,” said Adams. “… I think we need to remove them from the street and come up with a plan to implement them back into the system that we all can live by. Because the last thing I would want is somebody being hurt or injured or dying from these scooters.”

Representative for the Southwest Ward, Council Member Dan Besse, said, “There is a serious public safety issue with the way scooters are being used now. Hopefully we can address that with a reasonable regulation scheme, but at this point, it’s not self managing.”

The only ‘No’ vote came from Council Member Jeff MacIntosh, who represents the Northwest Ward. MacIntosh said although he has spoken out in favor of the scooters in the past, he has grown frustrated with Bird and their lack of communication. He mentioned the reason he voted against removing the scooters is because he was worried about the process for getting them back.

“The only reason I’m going to vote against taking them off the streets immediately is because I’m not sure what the process will be for us getting them back,” said MacIntosh. “I think they’re invaluable to the community, especially during the shut down period [of Business 40]. Anything we can do to take cars off the streets, we should do.”

Although a date has not been set on when the regulations will be in place, residents shouldn’t expect to see Bird Scooters back on the street before the new year.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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