BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Several Bird electric scooters showed up on a street in downtown Baton Rouge this week, but city officials say the company was not approved to do that.
The buzz generated after Baton Rouge Area Chamber Adam Knapp sent a tweet of a photo showing three Bird electric scooters sitting on sidewalk.
However, the electric scooters were not approved by the city, and upon the scooter sighting, Director of Transportation and Drainage, Fred Raiford, reached out to the scooter ride-sharing company.
Raiford said that a Bird representative believes the scooters could have been brought, without authorization, from Lafayette. Bird launched its fleet of scooters in Lafayette in November.
WAFB reached out to Bird, and a spokesperson said the company has not officially launched in the Red Stick. The vehicle-sharing company provided the following statement:
“Bird has not yet launched service in Baton Rouge, but we believe the city would be a great place to provide our accessible, affordable, environmentally friendly transportation option. We hope to collaborate with the city officials to bring Bird’s service to Baton Rouge in the near future.”
Raiford said that while some people would love to have the program launched in Baton Rouge, just as many might not want them around, possibly causing a public safety concern.
“People who may want to use them may think they can ride them on the sidewalks in the downtown area, which they cannot,” Raiford said in an email. “(We’re) not sure what safety requirements the scooter company provides and we do not want people coming in and out of doors in downtown and have a possible incident with someone riding a scooter. We need to have an idea what the company does to protect people riding them and be sure they know our concerns.”
The transportation director said the city might not have the basic infrastructure required to support the scooter-sharing system.
While there are potential safety issues, Raiford said he will meet with a representative Wednesday to discuss the safety components involving the Bird scooters.
Other city leaders share the same concern regarding public safety and electric scooters, including Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer.
In a DDD commission meeting on Tuesday, Rhorer said he had previously asked parish officials if they could regulate scooter services. Rhorer mentioned this after a recent visit to San Antonio, in which he saw scooters around the city, according to The Advocate.
He said that electric scooters could be a “fun endeavor,” but regulations need to be in place. Rhorer acknowledged in an interview with WAFB that downtown Baton Rouge has a growing young population moving in that’s excited about the transportation that’s growing in popularity.
Rhorer brought up Baton Rouge’s upcoming bike-share program as an example of the city preparing for similar transportation. He said rules and regulations would need to be established, including infrastructure and bike safety. Deciding where to put bike stations, determining bike corral locations and whether the program meets standards with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards are some things for city leaders to discuss.