MARSHALL — Motorized rental scooters have been in Marshall for about a year now, and people have definitely been making use of them.
Since July 2021, customers have taken 7,000 rides and traveled more than 12,000 miles around Marshall.
“We saw great community adoption there, a lot of people actually using the service,” said Kylee Floodman, Marshall account manager for Bird Rides, Inc.
But when the Marshall City Council renewed an agreement letting the Bird rental company operate in the city, it came with some extra safety provisions. The agreement, which was approved Tuesday, included speed and riding restrictions in certain areas of Marshall. There will also be fewer scooters placed on Main Street, the agreement said.
“I think this is a good compromise to keep working with Bird, and to keep them in our community and keep them usable,” said council member James Lozinski.
Bird Rides had a memorandum of understanding with the city that was effective through May 31. In discussions about renewing the MOU, the city proposed changes including reducing the speed of the scooters in parts of Marshall.
Bird’s technology can slow scooters down, or even shut them off completely, in certain areas.
“We requested that on Main Street, the usage of the scooters be reduced to 10 miles per hour,” said Marshall city administrator Sharon Hanson. “We wanted Memorial Park excluded (from riding), which they did. They reduced the speed in our other city parks down to 10 miles per hour.”
Marshall Public Schools had also requested that the scooters be excluded from riding on school property, Hanson said. “I believe that they did restrict those areas.”
As part of the MOU, fewer scooters would be placed on Main Street and in downtown areas, Hanson said.
Members of the public at last week’s council meeting said that while the scooter rentals are an asset to the community, people don’t always use the scooters safely.
Chad Kulla, owner of the Bike Shop in Marshall, said he thought making Main Street a no-ride zone would improve safety. People coming out the doors of downtown businesses have had “near misses” with scooters, he said.
“Reduced speeds are a good thing, but I think if we could control something and make it safe for everyone, that would be a good thing to do.”
Earlier this week, there was also an incident where a boy was injured falling off one of the scooters, and was taken to the emergency room.
Marshall Public Safety Director Jim Marshall said Friday he thought there hadn’t been many incidents or accidents involving Bird scooters reported over the past year. But Marshall said he had been contacted by local residents with questions or concerns about the scooters.
“Initially, I received a lot of calls,” Marshall said. “We do need people to follow the rules and regulations, and be mindful of pedestrians.”
At the council meeting, Floodman and council members aid Bird works to notify riders of the company’s rules and safety information. This year, Bird pushed out safety messages to its riders through the company’s phone app, she said.
“A lot of what we do is just general reminders of proper riding etiquette. I think a big piece of all of our programs is reminding riders, how to be a responsible rider,” Floodman said.
Some of the rules for Bird scooters include staying off the sidewalk and parking properly, she said. Bird also requires users to be 18 or older when they sign up. Users can be terminated or banned for breaking ridership rules.
“I think they are an asset when properly used. Like anything, else it can be a valuable tool until it’s misused,” said council member Craig Schafer.
Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes said the city could increase restrictions on the scooters in the future if there are still safety concerns.
Council members voted to renew the MOU with Bird.