A fleet of 200 electric scooters will be at the disposal of Hastings residents come springtime after the City Council approved micro mobility licenses for fleet rental companies Bird and Spin.
Hastings Community Development Director John Hinzman debriefed the City Council on the applications and what exactly they entail. The City first adopted a micro mobility ordinance last year allowing fleet rental companies offering motorized scooters to become licensed to operate in Hastings.
The approved license agreements are identical and affords both Bird and Spin 100 rentable scooters from March 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023. They both contain a “look back provision” that triggers in July of this year and will evaluate whether or not the supply of 200 scooters.
“If it is too much and we see that there are a lot of abandoned scooters that have not been used, we reserve the right to bring back the licenses to the city council and to modify the amount of scooters that would be issued,” Hinzman said.
Bird tested the proverbial waters first when they were issued a license for up to 100 scooters last year. Because of some managerial hiccups, the fleet rental company was only able to deploy 50 scooters over the course of three months, but Hinzman said that “demand seemed to go well.”
In their discussion, the City Council expressed concern over the potential stewardship of these rental scooters, pointing out the micro mobility vehicles were oftentimes strewn aside haphazardly in their inaugural year. They wanted to know what the micro mobility ordinance stipulated in terms of how the scooters would be staged around the city.
Hinzman said that the ordinance has provisions for how they are staged, but not necessarily where they are staged. For instance, the scooters can’t block the sidewalk and they must be left upright, but ultimately, the individual operators and their usage habits determine where they are staged.
Councilmember Jen Fox shared feedback from the City’s tourism board and said that they were ultimately pleased with the implementation of the Bird scooters. She said that Bird gives explicit instructions to operators on how to leave their scooters when they are finished, and that weather conditions and user error were factors in some of the untidiness witnessed last year.
Representatives from Bird and Spin dialed in to the council meeting via Zoom to answer any questions regarding their operations. Kylee Floodman, a Bird representative who oversees all of their sub-100,000 population markets, explained how they arrived at their request for 100 scooters.
Floodman said that Bird uses a model that looks at rides per vehicle per day to determine how many units are ideal for a population. Applied to last year's sample of 50 scooters, Bird saw an average of 1.5 to 1.7 rides per vehicle per day, according to Floodman, and that number showed growth potential.
She addressed some of the issues with the safety, staging and maintenance of last season's Bird scooters in Hastings. For areas posing safety concerns, Bird is able to institute “no-ride zones” that deactivate the scooters, and zones that slow them down, to control where and how they are used. They also have the ability to put in preferred parking zones.
Floodman stated that the manager in charge of the Hastings fleet was “not up to Bird standards.” She assured the City Council that Bird is doing their due diligence to put in place a reliable manager to help smooth over their operations.