Gilbert Town Manager Patrick Banger

Gilbert Town Manager Patrick Banger told Town Council last week that scooter companies for the most part are focusing their attention on dense urban areas and pulling out of communities like Gilbert and others in the East Valley.

Gilbert needs more time with its pilot program on electric scooters before forming an ordinance to regulate their use in town.

Town Council in March 2019 adopted the Micromobility Pilot Program to get some sort of control on what was then a proliferation of scooters in the Valley, which caused accidents and generated complaints from the public.

Town Manager Patrick Banger told Council last week explained that scooter companies initially “kind of dropped them all on the cities without warning and everybody scrambled to put together pilot programs to best understand how they can be integrated into our communities.” 

But soon after the town began putting together a pilot program, he explained, “then summer hit and they stared to shut down and lot of the companies started making some changes nationally.

“We’ve just only in the last couple of months started to see a small trickle of scooters come back into our community from Bird,” he continued. “So, the net result is we didn’t have much opportunity to collect data on it to understand how to craft these ordinances and our hope being that if they stick with it over the next several months, we will be able to do that.”

The program required participants to pay a one-time application fee of $2,500, pay the town 10 cents a ride and follow rules such as removing inoperable or unsafe scooter from rights-of-way within 24 hours of notice, not placing scooters within 10 feet of loading zones, curb ramps, fire hydrants and driveways and following the 15 mph speed limit or 10 mph in densely populated areas of town.

Since the town’s launch of its program, only Bird is doing business in town with about 50 to 100 scooters, said Nikki McCarty, town manager assistant.

Lime terminated its license program in June because it made a nationwide decision to pull out of the suburbs and deploy scooters only in big cities, McCarty said.  

During Bird’s participation from June to December 2019, it provided 135 rides. It redeployed it scooters in July.

The ridership numbers totaled 183 in July and 350 in August, earning the town $18.30 and $35, respectively, according to a staff report.

They’ve “paid their invoices on time and have been communicating with the town very well,” McCarty said. “We’ve been happy with the relationship that we’ve build with Bird.”

 Gilbert also has been successful so far in not having to levy penalties on either Bird or Lime when it was here, according to McCarty, who added the fines and penalties were made to be high in order for companies to self-regulate and not have the police involved.

The town, however, since July has received four complaints from the public through its 311 app that Bird scooters were blocking sidewalks, according to McCarty. 

“They’ve been very responsive in those complaints,” she said.

She said the company plans to stay in town for the foreseeable future but has no plans to ramp up the number of scooters.

“Their plans are to stay at a small-scale operation,” she said. “They are trying to provide alternatives to people right now who aren’t feeling comfortable taking mass transit but they also feel there isn’t a huge demand for these devices right now. If they decide to grow their fleet they will be in touch with the town.”

McCarty said staff’s recommendation was to keep with the pilot program and allow Bird to continue doing business under the existing rules.

“We will continue to monitor the program trends and update you of any significant changes that occur,” she told the Council.

Councilman Jared Taylor said the program has no end date and wanted an ordinance in place.

“Eventually we should have some ordinances so that any operator could come in and operate,” he said.

Councilwoman Kathy Tilque recommended another six months for the pilot program to give staff the time needed to bring back a proposed ordinance. Mayor Scott Anderson agreed with her suggestion.