Bird scooters

The scooters have appeared in over 100 cities and 125 college campuses globally. 

On the morning of Oct. 12, Bird scooters landed in Harrisonburg and the JMU campus. The electric, dockless scooters have appeared in over 100 cities, six countries and 125 college campuses worldwide. According to Assistant City Attorney of Harrisonburg Wesley Russ and JMU Chief of Police Lee Shifflett, there are about 100 scooters across the city and the university.

The vehicles are placed at bike racks and “nests,”  locations that have agreed to host the scooters and can be located specifically with the Bird app. To rent the scooter, a credit or debit card must be linked to the app. Once the Quick Response code is scanned, the fee is $1 plus 15-20 cents per minute of use. They’re open to anyone 18 and older with a driver’s license and the app on their phone. The max speed of the scooters is 15 mph.

“Harrisonburg is a forward-thinking city that shares our vision of getting cars off the road to reduce traffic and carbon emissions,” a Bird spokesperson said through email. “It is encouraging to see the people of Harrisonburg already embrace our mode of transportation and use it for those last-mile trips that are too long to walk and too short to drive.”

This addition to campus may help students, faculty and staff get around faster, but there are certain rules everyone must follow. Each rider is told to wear a helmet, stay off sidewalks, follow driving regulations, stay out of buildings and only have one person per scooter. 

“The biggest thing with the Bird scooters are that you park them properly at a bike rack and just don’t leave them with the kickstand on the middle of the sidewalk or in front of the door,” Shifflett said. “It’s common courtesy and personal responsibility.”

Sidewalks and building entrances are prohibited for parking the scooters because of safety hazards like people tripping over them and traffic with people moving in and out of buildings. They’re also not allowed to be parked inside buildings.

Every night, the Birds are picked up by independent contractors around 9 p.m. to be recharged. During this time, they’re all turned off by the company and if one is in use, it’ll run until the ride ends. At 7 a.m., a few charged Birds are placed at each “nest,” ready to be used for the day.

“We have been going through and as we see scooters that are parked incorrectly, we’ll contact Bird and let them know and they’ll fairly promptly have someone get out and fix it,” Russ said. “Then they’ll maybe adjust where they’re placing their scooters in the mornings to address the issue.”

It’s prohibited to take the scooters into homes or buildings to charge if you’re not registered as an employee. The contractors are hired by Bird and paid about $5 per scooter they pick up, charge and release; however, depending on how difficult it is to do those things, they may get paid more.

“We do see it as a potential opportunity for alternative modes of transportation throughout the city and relieving traffic pressure throughout the streets,” Russ said. “There’s a long-term potential.”

In order to sign up to become a charger, individuals must be 18 or older, own a car to pick up the scooters, be willing to charge at least three at a time and live in an area where Bird operates.

“Bird was founded to help create a cleaner and more hospitable world that prioritizes people over cars,” a Bird spokesperson said through email. “Since creating and introducing the concept of shared e-scooters a year ago, people all over the world have opted to exchange short car trips for clean Bird rides, tallying up 10 million rides.”

According to Russ, Bird monitors whether there are more than three rides per day for each scooter and then sends more to the cities and campuses with the highest demand and use. It’ll take time to measure the success and know the need for them in Harrisonburg and on campus.

“The bird scooter business model is an interesting concept,” Director of Communications and University Spokesman Bill Wyatt said. “I can see where it can appeal to students, they can get to point A to point B fairly quickly and not have to worry about parking. We just ask that students be safe and courteous when riding these scooters. If everybody uses common sense and is courteous, I think it will be a nice addition to transportation options on campus.”

Contact Bridget Murphy at murph2br@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.