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Bird’s the word

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt As of Monday morning, a fleet of 50 Bird electric scooters (e-scooters) were strategically placed around New Ulm, including these by the Glockenspiel.

NEW ULM — Bird is the new word in New Ulm transportation.

As of Monday morning, a fleet of 50 Bird electric scooters (e-scooters) were strategically placed around New Ulm. Twenty scooters were placed in front of the New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce, and five scooters each were placed at Hermann Heights Park, Harman Park, Nehls Park, German Park, Civic Center and the Glockenspiel.

The e-scooters are available for temporary rental in New Ulm city limits. To rent and operate these vehicles, an individual must download the Bird app on their phone. This app features a map of New Ulm and shows the location of the nearest Bird e-scooter.

A user can activate the scooter using the phone app by scanning a QR code on the scooter. The user must also have a credit/debit card to activate the vehicle. Once activated, the e-scooter will let out a bird-like chirp. The vehicle starts with the user pushing off with their foot and activating the right-hand throttle switch.

Rental is $1 to activate the e-scooter and 39 cents for each minute of use. The cost of a 15-minute ride is roughly $7.40.

Once a user is done with a ride, they must click the “end ride” button on the app to stop the charge meter. The e-scooter will make another bird-chirp sound to signify it is off.

Scooter may be parked at the user’s final destination. If the user rides the scooter to the restaurant, simply park it outside the restaurant. The scooter could then be used by another individual. All of the Bird scooters have GPS tracking. A maintenance crew will eventually collect the scooters and relocate them if necessary.

Users are asked not to leave the e-scooters on private property or park them in an inaccessible location.

The Bird e-scooter rental business is covered under New Ulm’s new micromobility sharing operations, adopted in May. The ordinance was created to allow this new business, but also set regulations for usage.

The Bird company already has regulations on who can use the scooters. A user must be 18-years-old to use the scooter. The vehicle also cannot be driven on sidewalks.

The city is allowing the e-scooters to be used on the bike trail but is limiting the top speed on the trail to 12 mph. The e-scooters are capable of 15 mph, but Bird can regulate the speed based on the GPS. If an e-scooter enters the bike, the top speed is immediately reduced to 12 mph.

“They follow the same rules as bicycles,” City Manager Chris Dalton said. This is planning to put out a press release and other information about the regulation this week. The information would also include contact information for Bird company.

The city is not maintaining the e-scooter fleet. Any problem with the scooters should be reported to Bird.

Micromobility sharing operations are becoming more common across the country. Similar services are used in the Twin Cities and other major metropolitan areas.

Dalton said its slightly unusual for a micromobility sharing operation to operate in a community the size of New Ulm, but Bird is experimenting with expanding the service.

By bringing the service to smaller communities, residents in rural areas will become more comfortable with it and are more likely to use it when visiting another community. The Bird app used to located e-scooters in New Ulm will also work in any community with Bird e-scooters.

The e-scooters are also a potential benefit for tourists. The e-scooters will allow visitors to travel to different areas around New Ulm with greater ease. Parking for the e-scooters is simpler than parking a car.

It is an alternative option to driving a car. Every e-scooter in operation is another vehicle taken off the road. These vehicles are electric instead of gas-powered.

Bird has started the micromobility operation with 50 e-scooters, but based on the public response the number of e-scooters could increase.

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