CANTON – The introduction of Bird scooters in late April was met with a mix of excitement and pessimism in Canton.
People expressed concerns about everything from scooters being vandalized to young riders ignoring traffic laws. There also were residents eager to try them after seeing electric scooters elsewhere who denounced the “negative Nancies.”
So how is the city faring more than two months later?
“The program has been doing really well in the city of Canton since it began on April 27th,” neighborhood planner Cassie Pearson said in an email. “We’ve had over of 15,000 rides. We’ve also seen a large number of commuters using the scooters which has been really great!”
Riders initially could go anywhere within city limits. But several areas — Centennial Plaza, Aultman Hospital, portions of Stadium and Monument parks, the 9th St. DIY skate park, and Vienna Woods Rental Homes — now are off-limits for riding or parking.
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Pearson said certain areas have been “geofenced,” within which the GPS-equipped scooters will slow and stop, upon request.
“Each reason is different,” she said. “For example, we restricted use on two of the park trails because there are rules in place that do not allow for the use of scooters and electric bikes.”
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Bird also added a requirement for riders to scan a form of identification, such as a driver’s license or state ID “to reduce the number of underage riders,” Pearson said.
The Bird app asks riders to attest that they are at least 18, but a city ordinance prohibits people under the age of 16 from renting a low-speed mobility device.
Initially, 75 scooters were placed throughout the city. Bird spokeswoman Lily Gordon said in an email that riders have traveled more than 80,000 miles and the company is “more than doubled” the number of scooters to accommodate demand.
“We’ve been pleased to see how quickly residents have adopted the new mode of transportation, with many riders taking multiple Bird trips already,” she said. “The longest ride to date was an impressive 33 miles.”
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Bird became a member of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce and heard “how the addition of scooters has increased foot traffic around town resulting in an economic impact to local businesses,” Gordon said.
The company also has had several Canton residents register for the Community Pricing Program, which offers a 50% discount to low-income riders, Pell Grant recipients, certain community organizations, veterans and senior citizens.
In May, city Planning Director Donn Angus met with City Council to answer questions and provide an update on the Bird scooters. He discussed scooter features and “nests,” which are designated areas where fleet managers return the scooters after recharging them.
Fleet managers are local logistical companies or small businesses hired by Bird to maintain the scooters. Angus said the city went from having one fleet manager to three within the first few weeks.
While the scooters are difficult to police, he said, the benefit is a novel way for visitors to potentially travel between the Hall of Fame Village and downtown Canton and patronize local businesses.
“This is not the first city in the world that has done this,” Angus said.
Bird is a California-based company that operates the scooters without city funding. City administrators entered a memorandum of understanding beforehand with Bird, which would be the responsible party in any crash and has liability insurance.
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Have there been traffic accidents involving scooters?
In response to The Canton Repository’s public records request for reports related to Bird scooters, the Police Department provided five reports, three criminal accident reports, a simple assault report and an informational report.
Two 17th Street NE residents reported vehicle damage, one report didn’t specify how the damage was caused and the other stated that a scooter was thrown onto a vehicle’s back window. A resident of St. Elmo Avenue NE also reported damage from a scooter thrown onto the rear of a vehicle.
A resident northwest told police that juveniles on scooters were trespassing on private property, and the reported assault of a girl in southwest Canton did not specifically mention a scooter or the nature of her injuries.
There were three crashes in May and two in June. Two scooters were struck by vehicles after the riders failed to yield at an intersection, an SUV was struck by a scooter that failed to yield at a stop sign, and what’s listed as an unknown unit rear-ended a parked SUV.
One late June accident report was not complete nor available by July 5, according to police.