The Columbia City Council voted 5-1 to pass the proposed agreement between the city and electric scooter companies Bird and Pony.
The only vote against came from Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala, who said not enough time had been given to integrate these plans with the community, as well as including other companies such as Lime in the agreement.
“Columbia is not ready,” Skala said. “Do these Birds even have nests?”
The public came forward with several concerns, at the forefront being public safety.
Dawn Zeterberg, a member of the Disability Commission and Public Transit Advisory Commission, spoke about her own problems with the scooters. She almost got hit by one, she said, and there needs to be somewhere to safely park the scooters so people using wheelchairs aren’t inhibited by them.
Carla Klein, a local resident, also spoke about her concerns with the scooters. On Election Day, she went out to vote and tripped over an ill-placed scooter, hurting her wrist and foot, as well as breaking her glasses and cellphone, she said.
“There needs to be a specific place where these things are parked,” Klein said. “I know you can’t legislate common sense, but they are a huge safety issue.”
After listening to concerns from the public, the council voted to pass the agreement outlined between the city and Bird, which was proposed Oct. 24, according to previous Missourian reporting.
“We’ve already had a lot of back-and-forth between the city and Bird,” Mayor Brian Treece said. “This is a one-year agreement. If we continue to see problems, we can revoke their business license or amend the agreement for the next term.”
Treece also asked that some of the money being raised through the agreement be used for sidewalk improvements and to minimize public safety hazards.
The approved agreement, as outlined by Deputy City Manager JJ Musgrove, includes the following:
- Will be effective for one year, to be terminated or continued as the city sees fit.
- Every Bird rider must wear a helmet.
- Each scooter includes a toll-free number for users to call with any questions.
- Bird will be responsible for any corrective actions, including illegal parking, within two hours or the scooter will be impounded at Bird’s expense.
- Bird will have an initial fleet size of 500 scooters.
- Pony will start dropping scooters beginning Jan. 4, with a fleet size of 250.
- Scooters may not go faster than 15 mph.
- Scooters may not be used during inclement weather.
- For every scooter used, $1 must be paid per day, to be paid quarterly. This will begin Tuesday, when the agreement goes into effect.
The senior manager for government relations for Bird, Blanca Laborde, spoke on behalf of Bird, answering questions from council members. She said Bird was committed to public safety and went over Bird’s rules for riding, including being over the age of 18 and having to scan a valid driver’s license, and the new “Bird-watchers” program, which aims to ensure the scooters are being used and parked properly.
Laborde declined comment when asked about the approved agreement.
Lime was not included in the agreement. Musgrove said negotiations are still ongoing with Lime. The company has requested further changes to an agreement, which is close to being finished, Musgrove said.
Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp was not present for the final vote.
In other council business:
A public hearing was held as the final step in approval to move forward with the proposed art for the Columbia Sports Fieldhouse. Local artist David Spear, who won the contract under the city’s Percent for Art Program, submitted designs for three pieces of art to be added to the center.
Sarah Dresser, manager of the office of Cultural Affairs, said Spear plans to have the silhouettes of actual users of parks and recreations’ facilities and figures that will represent various ages, body types and races.
Mayor Brian Treece supported the art but asked that Spear include a person who uses a wheelchair to represent all members of the Columbia community.
“If there is not already, I would like to see a wheelchair user depicted there,” Treece said. “We have a proud tradition of wheelchair basketball in Columbia.”
Council also authorized calling for a bid for construction of the Nifong Boulevard Corridor Improvement Project. The project aims to improve intersections, traffic movement and safety by adding through lanes, turn lanes, bike lanes and sidewalks.
Construction of these additions will be on the section of Nifong between Providence Road and Forum Boulevard and a section of Forum Boulevard between Green Meadows Road and Nifong Boulevard.
The estimated total project cost is $12.3 million. Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas voted no on the bill.
Also, council authorized calling for a bid for construction of the Keene Street and I-70 Drive Southeast intersection improvement project. The project proposed construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Keene Street and I-70 Drive with the goal to improve safety and alleviate traffic congestion.
The total estimated cost is $831,700, of which the city would pay $505,580 using the capital improvement sales tax.
The council also approved a request to use Tourism Development funds for Columbia’s Agriculture Park at Clary-Shy Park. Funding will be used to construct a farmers’ market pavilion. The Convention & Visitors Bureau Advisory Board requested $100,000 to assist with the construction of the year-round farmer’s market building.
The approved consent agenda also included a request to rezone and develop the Cullimore Cottages, an affordable housing neighborhood that was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission in October.
Ten homes would be constructed on the 1.3 acres to be rezoned, and each proposed home is expected to be priced around $125,000. Five of the proposed homes will face North Eighth Street and the remaining five will face Rear Coats Street.
Supervising editor is Sky Chadde.