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Columbia could see e-scooters on its streets and sidewalks this fall


The Columbia City Council is set to vote on Monday whether the city and University of Missouri will see Bird Rides, Inc. scooters on its streets and sidewalks this fall.

According to the City Council’s memo, in July of 2019, the University of Missouri and the City of Columbia collaborated to try out a one-year pilot program to see if e-scooters supported their desired mobility goals.

Some of those goals are to improve access to employment and services for underserved communities, promote transportation options and encourage non-auto-oriented mobility and assist in solving the “first mile-last mile” access to transit.

The memo states that after reviewing four proposals, the city and university found that Bird Rides inc. could best fit the wanted criteria, such as deployment and collection times, storage operations and maintenance plan, staffing plan, and team responsibility.

Although, during contract negotiations, the memo states that all discussions paused due to COVID-19. 

Now the University of Missouri, City of Columbia, and Bird Rides, Inc. are ready to move forward with a contract for the upcoming fall season.

According to the memo, the agreement between the entities states that Bird Rides, Inc. will pay an initial fee of $10,000 each to the City of Columbia and the University of Missouri and $2.00 per deployed scooter in operation each day, to be split 50/50 with the University.

Ian Thomas, Ward 4 City Councilman said in general he is supportive of a range of transportation options including e-scooters, but concerned that riders often fail to follow the rules.

"The e-scooters should be ridden on the road," Thomas said. "Not on the sidewalk, and parked carefully in a way that does not block access."

Noah Johnson, a University of Missouri student said he really wants the “bird’s” back in Columbia. He said it makes getting to class and other places downtown a lot easier. 

“I love the birds,” said Johnson. “I even remember when I was late to an exam one time and I used a bird to get all the way to... forget the hall, but it was all the way across campus.”

Johnson said the scooters could be used on an everyday basis to help get students to classes that are all around campus without walking 15 minutes. 

While Matt Tossick, a University of Missouri medical student said long term the scooters would be a positive addition, but is worried about the spread of COVID-19 right now.

“As of right now,” Tossick said. “I don't know if it'd be the best decision to go forward with it. I think sometime in the future it would be a good idea to have them on campus, but right now with the current situation it probably wouldn't be the best move.”

Tossick said if the council approved the program, like Johnson, he thinks it would go over well on campus but could see where others may get frustrated in other areas like downtown. 

“In regards to Columbia as a whole,” Tossick said. “I think it could maybe be an issue there. On campus though I know students walk, bike, and scooter and everything on the sidewalks across campus, but they're also made for larger groups of people. So outside of the university campus, I'm not really sure how it would be, I could see how downtown would be an issue.”

Tossick said overall he thinks the scooters would be a benefit rather than a major problem.

The council’s memo states that depending upon the outcome of the pilot review, the program could automatically renew unless earlier terminated as provided in the terms, but it also states that in no event shall be binding beyond three years from the effective date.

Columbia / Columbia City Government / Education / Politics / Top Stories / Transportation / University of Missouri
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Amber Tabeling

Amber joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in December 2019. She was a student-athlete at Parkland College and Missouri Valley College. She hails from a small town in Illinois.


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