Rockford, Illinois News

Rockford committee approves electric scooter rental program

ROCKFORD — Users of Rockford’s short-lived LimeBike program could soon have another ride-share option after the Planning & Development Committee approved an agreement with an electric scooter company Monday.

If the full council approves the agreement, Rockford would offer scooter rentals through a company called Bird Rides, which operates in 100 cities worldwide, including Chicago. Leaders say the program could be up and running this year.

Under the program, the scooters, which are capable of going 15 to 20 mph, would be treated as bicycles and allowed on streets, bike lanes, and bike paths. Users would be responsible for following rules of the road and must park scooters so not to impede ADA access. Users would be required to be at least 18.

The city will also propose changes to the Motor Vehicles and Traffic Code to explicitly define stand-up electric scooters and parameters for their use.

Like LimeBike, Bird Rides scooters would be accessed through a mobile app from 4 a.m. to midnight. Riders would pay an initial $1 charge and approximately $.35 per minute after that. A cash option would also be offered.

“This is a pilot agreement, which would be for 12 months with mutual renewable terms,” City of Rockford Economic Development Director Karl Franzen said.

The program will start with 100 scooters in Rockford’s commercial corridors. Additional scooters will be added according to demand.

“We are working with Bird as they analyze a map for that initial rollout,” Franzen said. “We want to make sure this is a sustainable model for them in this community long term.”

Franzen said Bird will have 24-hour customer service and respond to remove and relocate scooters that have been improperly moved or parked within 24 hours of notice. The system utilizes GPS technology to alert users and Bird when scooters are outside of the approved zone and scooters become inoperable when removed from the zone. Bird would maintain liability insurance, list the city as an additional insured, and indemnify the city from all claims.

But, the company would not be sharing revenue with the City of Rockford, something at least one alderman says is a dealbreaker.

“It sounds to me police will have more work to do because of this,” Ald. Linda McNeely, D-13, said. “It seems to me there should be funding from them. We have to maintain order on the streets and sidewalks. I can’t support this if there is no funding coming from them to the city. If it’s anything like the bicycle program that we tried, I would prefer to have some kind of funding come them.”

Sixth Ward Ald. Natavias Ervins (D) called the program a terrible idea.

“Based upon what I saw in the Sixth Ward with the LimeBikes–terrible, terrible,” Ervins said. “(Users) didn’t care about those bikes. They were in the streets; people got hit on those bikes. In itself, it may be a great idea, but I really think it’s bad timing. We are still trying to develop a feasible bike path, and we’ve got the fiber optic cable coming throughout the entire city, which is another disruption. So, with traffic flow, the last thing I would want is for anybody, especially our first responders, dealing with people on scooters. I really don’t think this is the time for it.”

LimeBike, now known as Lime, operated in Rockford from April 2018 to February 2019. During that time, some bikes were stolen, damaged, and found in trees. The company withdrew from the local market as part of its move away from pedal bikes toward an electric-scooter and electric-bicycle business model.

Alds. Tim Durkee, R-1; Bill Rose, D-9; and Chad Tuneberg, R-3, voted for the agreement. McNeely and Ervins voted no. The item will be in front of the full council next week.