Users With Disabilities Can Rent an E-Scooter in Long Beach for Free
Bird is launching its disability-accessible e-scooter and wheelchair program in Long Beach.
Starting this week, users with disabilities can pull up the app, choose one of four electric vehicles adapted to their needs and get it delivered to their hotel or home—all for free. The service is fully subsidized for the day.
The announcement was part of the electric vehicle-focused 2022 Electrify Expo taking place at the Long Beach Convention Center Friday.
“Bird wants to give back,” said Brian Buccella, VP of public policy at the Santa Monica-based startup.
Buccella spoke with Long Beach Community Outreach Specialist Tony Cruz about the partnership between the city and Bird.
Cruz is a former U.S. Olympian and pro cyclist. In 2009, he became the city’s “bike ambassador,” championing new cycling infrastructure and active transportation. Now, he works with everything from e-scooters to micro-transit.
“And now the running joke at City Hall is ‘Anything with wheels on it, just give it to Tony. He’ll figure it out.’”
Cruz described the city’s adoption of e-scooters as a “baptism by fire.” According to him, one of the biggest issues the city has faced is e-scooters blocking accessibility features like curb ramps.
“Our staff does an annual presentation to our commission for disabilities. And this has been the number one pain point for them: ‘We have sight impaired [people], [we] have disabled [people]. How are you going to fix this for us?’,” he said.
Bird is rolling out the adaptive vehicle program in partnership with Scootaround, a mobility scooter and wheelchair rental company based in San Diego. The program started as a pilot in the Bronx. Currently San Diego and San Francisco also offer the program in California. Long Beach will be the first municipality in L.A. County to take part.
Bird is launching its disability-accessible e-scooter and wheelchair program in Long Beach.Image courtesy of Bird
Long Beach launched its micromobility pilot in the Fall of 2018. Almost two years into its permanent shared permit program, the city has four operators: Bird, Lime, Veo and Razor. Unlike the city of L.A., Long Beach has a closed market for companies operating within its borders. The vehicle cap is currently 600 for e-bikes and 1,000 for e-scooters. Operators pay a permit fee of $25,000 per year and $100 per vehicle.
In an effort to clean up city sidewalks, Cruz said Long Beach is also rolling out a “forced parking” program, requiring riders to park at pinned locations in e-scooter and e-bike apps.
Long Beach’s approach follows a national trend of micromobility companies and municipalities partnering to implement new technology and protocol to address cities’ pain points. Last month, Bird and Lime trumpeted their new parking technology that uses Google Street View to verify and enforce correct parking.
With location data accurate “within 10 centimeters,” according to Buccella, companies should be able to do more, including curbing sidewalk riding and maintaining geofencing around restricted areas. (Critics have contended in the past that the amount of data collected by cities and companies, crucial to these programs, could pose a threat to riders’ privacy.)
As Long Beach continues to expand its mobility offerings, Cruz said he wants companies to succeed while also addressing concerns about safety and accessibility.
“Their success is the city's success as well. We're not here to over-regulate, we're here to work together.”
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