Bird scooters were reintroduced into Columbia earlier this year following a renegotiation between the city and Bird. And they seem to have been integrated more seamlessly than initially thought.
The city of Columbia has only received eight inquiries regarding the scooters’ return to the city, and it is not clear if they are complaints or questions regarding them, said Sydney Olsen, spokesperson for the city.
The agreement between the city and Bird states in part that the “City and University may suspend or terminate this Agreement at any time if City and University find, in their sole discretion, that Company’s Shared Active Transportation Operation is not in the best interest of the health, safety or welfare of City and University residents and visitors.”
A quick survey of businesses in downtown Columbia did not turn up any noticeable incidents or more traffic driven to stores because of the scooters. Many businesses do not have an issue with them at all and, in fact, do not acknowledge their existence.
Toby Epstein, manager of the Shakespeare’s downtown location, expressed indifference: “In theory, they’re there.”
John Evans at Rock Bottom Comics says that he thinks that “they’re funny” and that “driving business is not really a factor.”
Evans was concerned about kids and college-age people, as they might get hurt on the scooters, saying “there is no difference to me other than being worried about the kids.”
Bird scooters were pulled from Columbia in late 2019 when the original contract allowing scooters expired. There are also rules, as reported by the Missourian earlier this year, that Bird riders are to abide by. Riders must:
- use a helmet.
- only ride in streets or bike lanes.
- be 18 or older.
- carry a valid driver’s license or ID.
As for the MU campus, Bird scooters fall under the same rules as other motorized vehicles. This means that anybody operating a Bird scooter has “all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties of an operator of a motor vehicle, as provided by Missouri Laws,” as stated by the MU Parking and Transportation website.
Both MUPD and CPD apply the same rules of the road to anybody on a Bird scooter and enforce accordingly. For example, riding without a helmet could result in a $25 fine.
Though it does not affect businesses downtown directly, Bird is supposed to report any accidents or incidents to Columbia, as reported in April by the Missourian.
Even now, anybody can walk by and see Bird scooters strewn about and some thrown aside down hills. This could create an issue, as the scooters are supposed to be parked in their designated parking zones.
The other rules seem to be hit or miss. Residents and students will sometimes use the sidewalks instead of the street to get where they’re going, and most are not helmeted.
The contract between the city and Bird is on a yearly cycle and can be automatically renewed each year for the next three years, as reported earlier this year by the Missourian.