MOORHEAD — Fargo-Moorhead officials are mulling the possibility of letting a California company rent electric scooters in the two cities as an environmentally-friendly means of getting to college classes, touring the riverfront or taking a shopping trip.

Derrick LaPoint, president and CEO of Downtown Moorhead Inc., said the scooter rental company called Bird contacted the city of Moorhead with the idea and presented their proposal during this week's City Council meeting.

In a live video pitch to the council, Bird account executive Kate Shoemaker said the scooters wouldn’t cost the city a dime. And she immediately tackled the issue of scooter “clutter.” This reportedly has been a problem in other cities, with riders leaving scooters scattered haphazardly once they're done riding.

“It really is our responsibility to make sure there is no clutter with these dock-less models,” Shoemaker said, adding that the company would hire a fleet manager to oversee parking, maintenance, charging stations and clutter issues.

LaPoint said local law enforcement agencies have been notified that the city is considering the proposal.

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Electric rental scooters in Edmonton, Canada. Mack Male via Flickr / Special to The Forum
Electric rental scooters in Edmonton, Canada. Mack Male via Flickr / Special to The Forum

Shoemaker says the scooters would help with carbon emissions, traffic congestion and offer a fun and affordable option for riding around town.

“Moorhead has about 45,000 people, and it’s not your metropolis where you usually see these kinds of concepts, but the city is growing,” LaPoint said. “We’re still fragmented, and how you interconnect these areas until you have more density is crucial. Having micro-transit options is a crucial step in connecting residents.”

The Moorhead City Council has not yet accepted the scooter proposal, but city leaders expressed interest and raised questions as to whether the scooters could be driven into downtown Fargo.

“Bike lanes — we don’t have as many yet, and we still have some pretty poor quality streets,” said Moorhead Councilwoman Deb White. “We are a border city with Fargo, and are you planning on partnering with Fargo as well, otherwise wouldn’t it be the case that they wouldn’t be able to drive into North Dakota?”

“That is a little bit of the chicken before the egg, but we are planning on partnering with Fargo and are in discussions with them,” Shoemaker said.

City of Fargo strategic planning staff are researching the idea of allowing the scooters in the city, but have not made any decisions yet, said Gregg Schildberger, a city spokesman. Ordinance changes would be needed for the proposal to be considered by Fargo city commissioners, Schildberger said.

Moorhead Councilman Matt Gilbertson expressed doubt that an electric scooter service in Moorhead would work, partly because of the area’s harsh winters.

“I had the privilege of riding one along the beach in San Diego. And it seems to be a good thing for along the beach in San Diego. I’m not sure if it’s the best for getting to one place from another in Moorhead,” Gilbertson said.

In response, Shoemaker said Bird’s scooters are used in snowy places like Colorado and Sweden.

Moorhead Mayor Shelly Carlson said the idea “is very intriguing, and I think we will have some continuing discussions.”

Bismarck city commissioners on Tuesday approved an agreement with Bird to allow the scooter service to operate in their city.

How renting a scooter would work

Bird incentivizes riders to wear helmets and park properly by providing discounts, Shoemaker said.

Additionally, all scooters would be locked into “geo-speed” and “geo-fencing” limitations that keep riders from exceeding certain speeds or leaving designated areas. Tracking systems on the scooters ensure the vehicles are not lost.

The scooters weigh about 45 pounds, top out at 15 mph and can travel 30 miles before needing a recharge, according to the company.

To use a scooter, a new rider must download the Bird app, sign a user agreement, verify that they’re at least 18 years old, add a credit card and go through educational tutorials. After a scooter is parked at a spot in the city, a new rider can use it.

The standard cost to rent a scooter is $1 per minute, with an average cost of about $5 a ride. Discounts would be available for low-income riders and other groups, according to the company.