A consultant working for an electric scooter company that has drawn criticism locally met Thursday with the Columbia Disabilities Commission.
Jeremy LaFaver, a former Democratic state representative from Kansas City who now works as a lobbyist, touted the company as a new model for transportation and said Bird wants to cooperate with local governments as it establishes itself in new cities.
Bird scooter numbers have continued to grow in Columbia. Members of the disabled community have brought up concerns about sidewalk accessibility because scooters have frequently been found parked in the middle of city sidewalks.
Disability commission board member Rene Powell said something has to be done to fix the scooter problem. One of them almost hit her last week, she said.
“I’m looking down and then I look up and this guy is straight at me,” Powell said.
Lafaver said the company wants to work with the city.
“Understanding that communities and civic groups like yours are truly our biggest customer and our most important allies,” Lafaver said.
Lafaver said the company has introduced a new model of transportation that is an “effort to get people out of cars and enjoying our communities in our neighborhoods.”
The scooter company also has a new set of rules to address concerns, he said. Users must take a photo of their parked scooter before deactivating it through their mobile device app and scooter users who park incorrectly, they will lose some privileges. Customers rent time on the scooters through the mobile app.
Bird also has a new sidewalk pledge, Lafaver said.
“Save our sidewalk pledge, we’ve made this pledge in every city we go, to pick up every scooter every night,” Lafaver said.
There will also be no rides after 9 p.m. in an effort to get riders off the roads at night and to discourage scooter use by bar patrons, he said.
Bird is also paying to do business in cities where the company has set up shop, Lafaver said.
“We give every city a dollar per scooter per day,” he said. Lafaver said the deal will mean about $180,000 a year for the city of Columbia.
Some commission members were skeptical, but said they were happy Bird wants to work with them.
Bird will also be working to reduce fees for some groups, including veterans, Lafaver said.