City eyeing pilot program for scooter and bicycle rentals in downtown Rome

Saturday, Apr. 15, 2023–

On-demand bicycle and scooter rentals in Downtown Rome could be coming soon.

During a planning retreat last year, Rome City commissioners heard a proposal from Bird, a company that specialized in micro-mobility vehicles. They want to be able to rent electric scooters downtown. Since then, the company has added bicycles to its fleet. Chris Stockwell with Bird gave an update during a recent public works, transit, and traffic committee meeting.

“Rome has a lot of cool attributes,” “You have a handful of smaller universities in and around the city. I also applaud you all, given your size and location, for having pretty awesome bike routes and paths around the rivers. It definitely speaks to the potential ridership that we would anticipate in Rome.”

Stockwell added that in other cities Bird serves, the scooters remain more popular than the bicycles.

Renters would download an app, sign a user agreement verifying they are over the age of 18, add a payment, and complete an educational tutorial before renting the scooter or bicycle. The cost is a dollar to unlock, plus a per-minute fee.

Meredith Ulmer

Bird would be responsible for insurance liability, costs, and the hiring of a fleet manager, meaning there would be no cost to the taxpayers for the service.

The committee voted to send a recommendation to the full Rome City Commission that would authorize Assistant City Manager Meredith Ulmer to work out the details of a one-year pilot program.

“In my opinion, we should start very small and be demand-based,” Ulmer told the committee. “All of this is tracked, so we get data based on usage and where they go. If there is a higher demand and they are always in use, we may order more. If there is not, we may just stay where we are at. Also, if we order more, and we see them thrown about everywhere, because there are too many. Bird will come and get them.”

One detail that would have to be worked out is the boundaries where the scooters and bicycles would be allowed. The vehicles are tracked with GPS so they will slow down or stop if the riders are not following safety rules. That includes leaving a certain geo-zone.

If the pilot program is a success, and the city wants to make it permanent, a number of text amendments would have to be made to the city code, according to Ulmer.

Local Weather