DIB to discuss Bird scooters

by Jeremy Morrison

What is the most positive impact of having a scooter program in downtown Pensacola? How about the most negative impact?

These are a couple of the questions posed in a survey conducted by the Downtown Improvement Board. The survey is meant to provide a read on how the businesses represented by the DIB have received the addition of Bird scooters in the area.

Walker Wilson, executive director of the DIB, said comments about the scooters have been mounting — “You know, folks worried about safety issues” — so a survey seemed the next logical step.

“We figured the best thing to do was to send a survey out to downtown business owners,” he said, explaining that the survey’s results will be sent over to officials with the city of Pensacola.

“We just figured it would be best and prudent on our part to submit something to them,” Wilson said.

The city of Pensacola earlier this year entered into a relationship with Bird scooter company. The business rents out scooters, also collecting and redistributing its fleet around town. According to Mike Wood, a spokesperson with the Pensacola Police Department, riders using the scooters are held to the same rules as bicyclists.

Wilson said he expects DIB members will be looking for rules that prohibit riding scooters on sidewalks or in groups down the street. The DIB will be discussing the issue of scooters during its Dec. 14 meeting — scheduled for 7:30 a.m. at the Bowden Building, 120 Church St. — and will be forwarding its comments to the city just as officials begin assessing a contract with Bird scooters that is currently winding out its 6-month introductory period.

Wood said that while there have been some issues with Bird rental scooters thus far, any improvement depends on riders observing whatever traffic and safety regulations are in place.

Bicycles, Wood points out, have been around a long time, and there are accidents involving vehicles and otherwise despite well-established rules of the road. Now, scooters are on the scene, and again, safety will hinge not just on rules but also on rider observance.

“It’s not the bicycle or scooter that’s the problem; it’s the operator,” Wood said.