Windsor scooter pilot program launch mostly smooth

The electric vehicles are confined to bike lanes and trails and are being used by locals, travelers for short trips around town.|

Windsor Scooter stats (May 6-May 26)

•Number of unique riders: 645

•Average rides per rider: 2.82

•Total rides: 1,820

•Number of miles traveled: 4,803

There’s been a good buzz around town about the shared Bird electric scooter pilot program launched May 6 in Windsor, the first Sonoma County city to do it.

There were a few bumps in the road when residents complained that kids under 18 had been allowed to rent them and had been driving on sidewalks, bumping into cars and generally causing havoc.

Once that was handled through an ID verification technology that requires riders to scan a form of ID before each ride, it’s been a smooth ride for the one-year pilot program approved April 6 by the Town Council.

“I’m hearing mostly positive comments, so we are going to hopefully work out any wrinkles as they arise,” said Windsor Vice Mayor Esther Lemus. “It’s a positive thing because there are less people driving. I have previously been on one of those scooters and it’s a pretty easy way to get around. We have a SMART train that’s going to be around … I would be more apt to use the train if I knew there was a way to get to work.”

The 25-50 scooters are stationed strategically around Windsor and riders are required to travel on trails, roads and bike lanes, not on sidewalks except to mount or dismount. Costs are based on distance/time according to the Bird app. The scooters are limited to going 15 mph and all scooters have GPS tracking.

Guests at the Hampton Inn coming from larger metropolitan areas such as Austin, Texas and Los Angeles are excited to see the scooters parked in front of the hotel, according to Katie Phillips, director of sales, because they are familiar with them.

“They ask a lot of questions — they like the fact that we have them in front of our hotel,” Phillips said. “Some use them to go to Russian River Brewing Co.”

Her staff uses them sometimes to go pick up lunch, she said.

The scooters have been “a great selling point for future bookings,” Phillips said.

“A bride asked about the walking distance to our restaurants, and I mentioned that we had these cute little scooters, and she got very excited and was going to tell all her guests that they could use those instead of Ubers,” she said. “It’s been a great conversation starter.”

The scooters are rented and used the most in central Windsor, but according to the town’s data, “a good number of people start and end their rides all over Windsor, perhaps with more concentration near the Windsor Golf Club, the Beverage District, Keiser Park and shopping centers,” Windsor Public Works Director Shannon Cotulla said.

“Since this is a new program, it will take a little time for people to get used to e-scooters,” Cotulla said in a written statement. “To ride a Bird scooter, riders agree to follow traffic and safety rules, such as no riding on sidewalks. Bird also has several rider-education initiatives both in-app and on other channels to promote safe riding. The town has received some complaints about kids riding the scooters and inappropriate ridership — these have been passed on to Bird through calls, emails and the Bird app.”

Ridership peaks in the late afternoon and early evening, she said. The scooters are parked in clusters where use is anticipated, and repositioned as needed, according to Garrett Gronowski, a representative of the micro-transportation company, who gave a virtual presentation to the council on April 6.

Mayor Sam Salmon said although he received some negative feedback about the scooters when kids were riding them, he is all in on the program.

“For me, it’s just having them out there for people to see,” he said. “I think their use will pick up. … It’s going to take a while. It’s all about green gas reduction. The car’s gonna kill us.”

Beth Henry, executive director of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce, said “I’ve not gotten any feedback (about the scooters) from the businesses, which I view as good. If there were problems I would have heard.”

“I like them; I like the randomness of them,” she added. “I really think this is helpful in the last-mile issue you always hear about.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at kathleen.coates@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5209.

Kathleen Coates

Windsor and Cloverdale, The Press Democrat 

As someone who grew up in a small town, I enjoy covering what's happening in Windsor and Cloverdale, which are growing in their own unique ways.  I delve into issues by getting to know people and finding out what’s going on in the community. I also pay attention to animal welfare and other issues that affect Sonoma County.

Windsor Scooter stats (May 6-May 26)

•Number of unique riders: 645

•Average rides per rider: 2.82

•Total rides: 1,820

•Number of miles traveled: 4,803

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