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Council Explores Regulating Bird Scooters

Bill Rinehart

Bird scooters landed in Cincinnati in July and not everybody is happy about it.

Council members are looking at interim rules governing the dockless devices with an eye on what should be made permanent. Complaints have included riders on sidewalks and collisions with pedestrians. Bird spokesman Sam Reed says these concerns are not unique to Cincinnati.

"They're riding on sidewalks because they don't feel safe in the street," he told council during a Wednesday meeting.

Reed says the company is still working to change behavior, with notices on scooters and a social media campaign designed to get riders off sidewalks.

"We also have four ambassadors that have been posted out since late last week that are riding around in safety vests that are reminding users of the same; really focused on getting folks off of sidewalks," he added.

Reed says there's also been talks with Cincinnati Police about enforcement, but some on council wonder if officers don't have bigger issues to worry about.

Councilman Greg Landsman says he believes the city should be a partner with Bird.

"The city has to have real control over how these are used and an ordinance does create more rules -- whether or not people abide by those rules is a question," he says. "When you have a partnership with the company you can say, 'This is how we're going to work together,' and you can cancel that at any point if the relationship isn't working out." 

Landsman says there's consensus on council that safety is the number one issue when it comes to scooter operations. Some people complain riders don't follow traffic rules, cause accidents and leave the scooters wherever they get off, cluttering sidewalks.

Assistant City Manager John Jueck told a council after reported collisions, there's been discussion about a pedestrian safety fund. "We've talked about $1 per scooter per day that would go into a dedicated fund for pedestrian safety in the city that could be used on a variety of projects that are related to pedestrian safety."

Bird representative Reed says the company has been collecting that dollar a day and will give it back to the city, with just one ask: that it goes toward safety training or bike lane infrastructure. 

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Rinehart has been a radio reporter since 1994 with positions in markets like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio: and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.