Electric scooters have rolled into the Twin Cities

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A new way to get around the cities has just rolled into town – well, for the more coordinated among us, that is: Just last week electric scooters suddenly popped up overnight all around St. Paul and Minneapolis and people are already eagerly trying them out.

These scooters are the new trend in app-based alternative transportation and the Twin Cities is the latest destination for the California company, Bird, to test out their scooter program.

Much like the idea behind Nice Ride bikes, Bird hopes scooters will provide another option for traveling short distances. Bird hopes the scooters will solve the ‘last-mile’ problem when your destination is too far to walk but too short to drive. The Bird website explains, “We have an unprecedented opportunity to reduce car trips – especially the roughly 40 percent of trips under two miles – thereby reducing traffic, congestion, and greenhouse gas emissions.”

You can find the scooters all around the cities by downloading the Bird app. You do have to be 18 years old to operate the scooters and enter into the app your drivers license information as well as payment details. It costs $1 to start the scooter and then 15 cents per minute to ride. After you’re set up, the app will show you where you can find a scooter as unlike Nice Ride, the scooters don’t have docking stations but instead are scattered loose throughout the city. Once you find a scooter, whether leaning against a street sign or parked on the sidewalk, you unlock the scooter with the app and start it up by pushing off two or three times with your foot and hit the throttle to get moving.

After you’ve reached your destination, you simply leave the scooter next to the curb and lock it with the app. You don’t need to return the scooter to any particular place as the Bird company comes and collects the scooters off the street each night for maintenance, charging, and repairs before returning the scooters to the streets the following day.

The Bird scooters have definitely peaked interest as driving through downtown Minneapolis I watched a trio of businessmen dressed in their button-ups and ties cruise down 6th street on their lunch break while across the road I saw a young woman starting up another scooter after leaving a coffee shop. In just a few blocks nearly a dozen people whizzed by which isn’t exactly an understatement as these scooters can go up to 15 mph.  

Because these scooters can gain some relative speed, you’re required to ride in the bike lanes and stay off the sidewalks. You’re also technically required to wear a helmet while riding the Bird scooters though I actually have yet to see anyone follow this particular rule.

For the moment, there are no regulations surrounding the scooter program and until ordinances and permits are discussed and finalized, St. Paul has asked Bird to remove the scooters from its streets. Concern over the scooter program stems from other cities like Denver and San Francisco that have encountered troubles with regulating and scooter vandalism.

Hopefully the regulations will be sorted out for the Twin Cities, as these scooters are great for traveling short distances, for reducing carbon emissions, and easing up traffic jams.

Plus, they look pretty fun to ride.

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