MSU Impounds at Least 70 Bird Scooters

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Tuesday, October 2, 2018, 7:54 am
Jessy Gregg

Bird Scooters, the black “pay to ride” electric scooters operated through an app, are now being impounded on MSU’s campus.

According to Police Captain Doug Monette MSU police are impounding scooters which are being parked illegally. As of the morning of October 1st, seventy of the electric scooters had been impounded by MSU police.

The impounded scooters have been picked up because they were left in areas that violate MSU’s parking policies. In a phone interview Monette explained that, according to State law, these electric vehicles are classified as mopeds, and MSU’s policy is that mopeds cannot be parked at bike racks.

The app which is required to activate the scooters encourages users to park them near bike racks, which could be part of the confusion.

Above: the Bird app shows 30 scooters clustered near MSU's Police Department. Photo credit: Jodi Spicer.

Scooters parked on sidewalks or left in the grass are also considered to be illegally parked. According to Monette the only place on campus that Bird scooters could legally park is at a metered parking space. The other legal option would be for Bird to purchase moped permits for every vehicle that might end up on MSU’s campus, at a cost of $50 per permit per year, after which the scooters could be parked in designated moped parking areas.

Monette told ELi that according to MSU’s Parking Services office the only Bird employees who have tried to contact MSU regarding the impounded scooters are the “chargers” who collect, charge and redeploy the scooters in “nests” around the city. No one from the larger corporation has been in contact with MSU about the impounded scooters.

In addition to impounding improperly parked scooters the MSU police are working to educate riders about proper operation of the scooters. Since MSU considers the electric vehicles to be mopeds they cannot be operated on sidewalks or in the bike lanes on Campus. Monette told ELi that the only place the electric scooters could be ridden on campus is on roadways which are designated as 25 mph and up, where they would be expected to stay as far to the right as possible.

According to Ted Fetters, Senior Manager for Government Relations at Bird, Bird Scooters are limited to a top speed of 15 miles per hour. Fetters addressed East Lansing City Council two weeks ago during their regular meeting.

An employee in the Campus Controller’s Office explained the fees which would have to be paid for each impounded scooter. Each seized vehicle would have a $25 impound fee, and since they were impounded for illegal parking there would also be a parking ticket. Parking fines start around $30 but increase if the ticket is not paid within the first week. Those fines increase after 45 days, when the ticket is considered delinquent, and are then referred to the delinquent receivables department for collection efforts. If all collection efforts fail the tickets could be sent to East Lansing’s District Court 54B for enforcement.

Council Member Aaron Stephens told ELi that East Lansing will be inviting community feedback regarding the Bird Scooters during the winter months, when the scooters won’t be on the streets. He expects that the City will work out some sort of licensing agreement with the company that includes provisions for parking, monitoring, enforcement, and safety before scooters are released again in the spring.

UPDATE: Just after this story was published, ELi was informed that all the previously impounded scooters were gone. Below is a screen shot of the Bird app showing no scooters near MSUPD. It is most likely that Bird collected the scooters, but ELi is following up to get a definitive answer.

UPDATE: MSUPD Captain Doug Monette tells us that the impounded scooters are still there, and although he doesn't know for certain, he speculates that they may have run out of battery or had their GPS tags remotely disabled by Bird.

Photo: Jodi Spicer


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