Middletown pushes for eco-friendly electric bike rides, scooter program

MIDDLETOWN — Less than a week after the city introduced a pilot program of electric micro-transit bicycles and scooters, local commuters have embraced the new mode of rapid transportation by taking short trips around town.

Drivers may have noticed the light blue, eco-friendly, electric Bird bikes and black scooters resting on sidewalks across the city, mostly downtown, the North End and the surrounding area — and wondered if one can try them.

Acting Community and Economic Development Director Bobbye Knoll Peterson encouraged people to take a ride for short trips around town through the rideshare app.

The company aims to replace car travel with convenient options, make cities safer and reduce pollution, and encourage responsible riding.

The bikes and scooters are being used well so far: Between Sept. 1-12, a total of 1,976 rides were made on 98 bikes and scooters spread across the city — for an average of 165 uses per day, Peterson said.

During that period, 641 unique users tried the service, traveling a total distance of approximately 1,660 miles. A good number of riders are from Wesleyan University, said Peterson, who said these riders alone rode a total of 800 miles in the first five days.

Middletown put out a call for e-bike and scooter companies late last year, seeking bids from micro-mobility companies in an effort to encourage more people to ditch their cars for certain trips and hit the road. with an environmentally friendly transport option. .

Bird contacted the city and won the project, Peterson said. “We had a sense of what we wanted, what we didn’t want,” she said. “… There may be different ways to use them successfully.”

The city worked with Bird to create a map that “closed” designated areas where bikes and scooters cannot ride, which can be adjusted if necessary. These can be fine-tuned at any time, Peterson said.

A big selling point was the company’s geolocation, as well as a local fleet manager who can move leftover bikes and scooters to more remote areas, she added. “They have created a system where we can manage where we do and we don’t want these vehicles to go,” explained the director.

The app uses geocaching to show available bikes and scooters in real time, and people can even reserve one. The idea is to have a bike or scooter located within a block of a few “hot spots,” such as the Russell Library on Broad Street.

That way, users can ride to a destination, leave their bike or scooter outside for others to use, and most likely find another one within a short walking distance most of the time, Peterson said.

Devices automatically recharge every three days.

Time can be purchased in increments by scanning a QR code.

When the ride is over, the app asks the rider to take and submit a photo of the bike or scooter resting on the pavement.

There are no gears on the bike, which makes it easier to pedal and people will get exercise despite the lack of resistance, Peterson said.

They should not ride on sidewalks, the company said, and users should ride in bike lanes on the right side of the road. They are self-closing, so racks or bike gates are unnecessary.

Drivers can pass people on scooters and bicycles if they leave at least three feet between the vehicle and the rider, according to state law. Helmets are encouraged.

There are other benefits, Peterson noted, compared to buying an e-bike or e-scooter: There’s no maintenance required and there’s no need to store them at home, where space can be limited, she said.

“The feedback has been great,” Peterson said. “Overall, what we’ve heard from people is that they appreciate this program.” Through Bird’s community pricing program, low-income riders, Pell Grant recipients, select nonprofit and local community organizations, veterans and older riders are eligible for a 50 percent discount.

Also, qualified health care workers and emergency personnel can ride for free, and qualified riders get two free 30-minute rides a day, Peterson said.

The bikes and scooters can be used by anyone 18 or older using the Bird app on a smartphone, which requires a credit card or PayPal account. The exact price depends on the ride, according to the app, but most cost $1 to start and 49 cents per minute while they’re running.

The application can be downloaded from the Apple store or through Google Play. For information, visit bird.bike.

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