The Fresno City Council is seeking input from Fresno State and other college campuses before it passes a “shared mobility” ordinance that will regulate transportation modes such as scooters operated by companies Bird and Lime.
The ordinance was introduced to the council Thursday after the city of Fresno last month issued Bird a cease-and-desist letter. Bird Rides Inc., a Santa Monica-based company that provides dockless motorized scooters for public use, dropped a number of scooters off in Fresno in August. The council will vote on the ordinance at a later date.
Representatives from both Bird and Lime attended Thursday’s meeting to answer questions about their companies, both start-ups in a new and booming industry. Lime’s senior director of strategic development, Katie Stevens, previously worked as government affairs manager for former mayor Ashley Swearengin.
Martin Fatooh, a government partnerships representative for Bird, apologized to Councilman Paul Caprioglio, who represents District 4 near Fresno State where the scooters were dropped off, for any issues that action caused the city.
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“We want to be in Fresno, he said. “ We want to partner with the City Council.”
The ordinance requires companies providing the shared mobility devices to obtain a permit with the city. Devices abandoned in the roadway or a public area such as a sidewalk could be impounded by the city, under the proposed ordinance. The ordinance also proposed a maximum $1,000 fine or jail time for a traffic violation amounting to a infraction or misdemeanor. That likely will be amended, per the council’s request.
Council members Oliver Baines and Clint Olivier scoffed at the punishment and said the ordinance would need to be amended before they support it.
“There’s no way I can support this ordinance in its current form,” Baines said. “I think it should be scaled down significantly.”
Olivier called the fine and possible jail time “bizarre criminal penalties.”
“We barely have enough cops to crack down on methamphetamine,” he said. “…What are you going to have? Scooter police?”
Councilman Luis Chavez noted the negative attention given Bird scooters on social media platforms, such as an Instagram account called “Scooter graveyard.” Fatooh assured him the company has created education and training programs to prevent misuse, and riders must provide proof the scooters are properly parked before paying for their ride.
Despite efforts to provide efficient transportation options, it hasn’t been a smooth ride for the Bird company or their scooters. A litany of complaints from people in urban cities and city governments about the scooters have surfaced since the company was founded in 2017.
Other cities, such as San Francisco, also have issued cease-and-desist letters to the company. Police in Milwaukee ticketed a rider for striking and injuring a pedestrian with a scooter in July. In St. Louis, Bird pulled the scooters off the street before it officially launched the ride program.