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New ride share program could bring electric scooters to Riverhead

With a bike share program scheduled to take effect by May 1 in Riverhead Town, officials now hope to also add a similar program for electric scooters. 

The Town Board discussed that program at its work session last Thursday with Jeremy Lynch of Bird scooters.

“Bird is a last mile, stand-up electric vehicle sharing company dedicated to bringing affordable, environmentally friendly transportation solutions to communities everywhere,” Mr. Lynch said.

“Our mission is to get people out of cars and solve the last mile challenge by connecting more residents to transit options.”

The scooters would be subject to local rules and riders would have to read a tutorial on how to ride safely before they can ride, according to Ms. Stevens. 

Riders must be at least 18 years old. The program uses a smartphone app to find and reserve scooters, which are then activated when the user scans a QR code with a smartphone. The app has a 4.9 out of 5 rating in the Apple store out of nearly 900,000 reviews.

The scooters could be adjusted to warn riders not to ride on certain areas where the town wants them to ride.

“The local rules are customized for each market, including specific information about parking and no-ride zones,” Mr. Stevens said. 

Bird can create a designated parking zone, and if riders are parked in an area not designated as such, they can be directed to a location where parking it permitted. 

The scooters have what’s known as “geo-fencing,” which maps out areas where the scooters are permitted and uses a smartphone to tell the rider if they leave that area. 

The rider will have to verify that their scooter is parked properly when their ride is done by taking a photo of it.

A “fleet manager,” chosen by the town, would be responsible for making sure the batteries are charged and retrieving the scooters when rides are done. 

Mr. Lynch said about 50 scooters could be placed around town, along with 15 to 20 staging areas for the scooters.

The cost to ride would be $1 to unlock the scooter plus an additional 30 cents per minute.

There would be a 15 cent revenue share per ride, under the proposal. 

The program would be seasonal, running only from March or April through November or earlier, Mr. Lynch said. 

The scooters weight 44 pounds and have a top speed of 15 mph. 

Bird also proposed an access program for people on public assistance allowing five free 30-minute rides per month, along with discounts for veterans, senior citizens and select community nonprofit groups. 

Reaction from Town Board members was mostly positive. 

“With climate change here, it’s great for us to embrace any initiative that moves us toward lower emissions,” said Councilwoman Catherine Kent. 

“I love the idea,” said Councilman Frank Beyrodt. 

“It’s great for the downtown area,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said.

The scooters would not be permitted on the recreational trail at EPCAL, since motorized vehicles are not permitted, Councilman Ken Rothwell said. 

Councilman Tim Hubbard said he supports the program but believes it will result in people using the scooters while they are intoxicated. State law already prohibits operating a scooter while drunk, town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said.