Fridley is considering passing an ordinance to update its current city code to allow micromobility devices within the city.
A first reading and a public hearing were held at the June 28 City Council meeting. No residents spoke at the public hearing.
Environmental Planner Rachel Workin said the city received a text amendment application from Bird Rides Inc., headquartered in Santa Monica, California, to update Fridley’s City Code Chapter 509 on motorized vehicle rentals to allow for the rental of motorized foot scooters, another type of shared micromobility devices.
Bird currently operates in Golden Valley, Minneapolis and St. Paul, and is currently under consideration by the city of Brooklyn Park. Similar companies in the Twin Cities include Lime, which operates in St. Paul, and Lyft, which operates in Minneapolis. The companies have a local fleet operator that is responsible for charging, maintaining and rebalancing the micromobility devices under contract. The local fleet operator receives a commission on the micromobility devices they service.
Workin said Chapter 509 was adopted in 1965 and allows for licensing of motor vehicle companies, but the city code’s current definition of motor vehicles does not include micromobility devices, small, lightweight vehicles that operate at speeds below 15 mph. Examples of micromobility devices include electric bikes and scooters — both which Bird offers — but private micromobility devices could be included as well.
“The city’s existing code, Chapter 509, allows the city to license motor vehicle companies, so a car rental company,” Workin said. “In staff’s review of the code, we determined that this specific code as it’s currently written with regards to motor vehicles needed a little bit more than a simple vocabulary addition. The sharing of electric vehicles in the right-of-way requires some particular language that would need to be expanded upon. Staff also noted that we no longer license motor vehicle rental companies. There’s an existing motor vehicle company in the city that we do not license. There’s not institutional knowledge of licensing that type of business and we deemed it appropriate to remove the language.”
The changes to the city code would allow for most micromobility devices. Bird, though, is seeking to only offer a shared city program for foot-powered electric scooters.
Bird’s new e-bikes are not being considered for a city sharing program at this point in time. However, Bird e-bikes can be purchased privately.
The Bird scooters travel 15-18 mph. The company requires all users to be 18 or older, which is verified using a driver’s license. Helmets are encouraged by all ages, but not required. The scooters can be accessed from 4 a.m. to midnight.
Workin said the state of Minnesota’s laws for micromobility devices are a little different: You must be 12 years old or older to operate, a helmet is required for anyone under the age of 18, the device needs to be equipped with proper lighting to be ridden in the dark, and micromobility devices can be ridden on roads and trails unless otherwise posted.
Both Bird and Minnesota state statutes require that only one person may operate a device at a time.
The rules for Bird and Minnesota state statutes would be need to be abided in order for users to ride the scooters.
Workin said the Chapter 509 text amendment that’s being requested by Bird includes an ordinance that creates a license requirement and fees, it allows the city to impound and charge a fee for privately owned micromobility devices, and it limits the number of licenses to two per type of micromobility devices.
The number of scooters is capped for Fridley at 200 scooters. If more than one company receives a license from the city, the number of scooters would be split to 100 scooters per company, Workin said.
The license agreement with Bird would specify the number of scooters, the duration of the license, programs standards, insurance and indemnification and reporting.
Workin said Bird’s license would be approved annually and run May 1 through April 30. Bird would need written permission from the city to maintain scooters in the right-of-way between Oct. 31 through April 30 so as to avoid weather conditions.
Most public micromobility companies have geofencing (virtual boundaries), are highly mobile and would redistribute devices where they’re needed. Micromobility devices, both public and private, cannot be parked where they block pedestrian or vehicular access, landscaped areas, traffic islands or in the street.
Any public or private device may be subject to impoundment if parked on private property or for other violations. If there are issues with a licensed micromobility company, the city will have a direct contact to solve issues as needed. The city does have the ability to restrict certain areas to reduce the number of devices in the city or terminate the license due to violations, Workin said.
The city of Fridley is planning to require that all Bird scooters be geofenced from high-speed roads that have speeds over 45 mph. Any additional boundaries can be added by the city at anytime, Workin said.
The Fridley Planning Commission recommended 4-1 to pass the ordinance for a text amendment to update city code to allow micromobility devices in the city.
The Fridley City Council expressed concerns about enforcement of micromobility devices and the possible burden it could add to public safety officials, any added liability issues, safety concerns such as injuries and crashes, accessibility to the devices and how age verification would occur for individuals without driver’s licenses and how ages would be enforced through the company’s user agreement.
To learn more about Bird, visit bird.co.