Council gets update on success of scooters in first year

Published 9:04 pm Monday, January 10, 2022

Fourteen hundred unique users utilized the rental scooters brought to Albert Lea through a stand-up electric vehicle sharing company in their first season, a representative with the company told the Albert Lea City Council Monday.

In an update about the first eight months of the scooter program, Mike Butler, a representative with Bird, said there were 100 scooters in Albert Lea, though not all were on the road at the same time.

The scooters traveled a combined 15,051 miles, and the average ride was 24 minutes long, he said.

To utilize one of the scooters, people walk up to one parked in a designated area and utilize a smartphone app to unlock and then pay for a ride. Riders, who must be over 18, sign a user agreement and go through educational tutorials and are then allowed to ride within a designated operating zone approved by the city and Bird. At the end of the ride, the rider must park the scooter upright out of the way of pedestrians and take a photograph showing how the scooter is parked. 

Butler said the company charges a pretty standard fee compared to other similar companies for its riders.

Riders are made aware of pricing before each ride, which is $1 to start and a per-minute fee thereafter.

Third Ward Councilor Jason Howland asked if other cities typically see a drop-off in services their second year after people get over the initial excitement of having the new amenity.

Butler said though there is an initial excitement factor the first few weeks the scooters are in place, he anticipates the second year to be steady with what the city saw for use in 2021. He said what the company has seen in other communities is that people start utilizing the scooters as a viable transportation option.

Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr. said at first he was concerned with having the scooters all over the city, but once the program got up and running, he thinks it has been good for the city. He noted he talked to many people who came to the community from the smaller communities outside of Albert Lea just to ride the scooters.

City Manager Ian Rigg said the first couple weeks after the scooters were brought to town the city received a lot of calls about them, but once staff educated the public on how to reach Bird directly with questions, the influx of calls dropped off to nothing by the end of the summer.

He did not anticipate them to be an issue for staff once they start back up again in the spring.

“It’s been widely used, and thankfully not abused,” Rigg said.

Butler said the scooters in Albert Lea saved saved 2.12 metric tons in carbon dioxide emissions.

He said he was impressed with how the program has been running in the city, and he is excited to bring the scooters back in 2022.

In addition to the scooters, Bird in 2021 also started offering electric bikes.