Transportation

Hollister council approves year-long pilot program for electric scooters

After receiving guarantees to cover potential liabilities, members OK bringing a minimum of 50 electric scooters downtown.
Councilman Tim Burns said he was not going to vote in favor of the pilot program until he was assured it could be cancelled at any time. Photo by John Chadwell.
Councilman Tim Burns said he was not going to vote in favor of the pilot program until he was assured it could be cancelled at any time. Photo by John Chadwell.
HPD Chief Carlos Reynoso said he was concerned about riders taking the scooters into roadways. Photo by John Chadwell.
HPD Chief Carlos Reynoso said he was concerned about riders taking the scooters into roadways. Photo by John Chadwell.

Hollister City Council unanimously approved a pilot operating agreement for a stand-up electric scooter sharing program with Santa Monica-based Bird Rides, Inc. Brett Miller, city manager, said the program could begin immediately.

The 12-month program will involve a minimum of 50 scooters placed in strategic locations identified by city staff based on factors such as population density, access to bike lanes and pedestrian pathways, commercial and retail accessibility. No exact locations were identified during the meeting.

The company will be responsible for all scooter maintenance and will indemnify the city of any liability. Bird will also provide 24-hour customer service for safety concerns and complaints, along with some general ride activity data to improve the city’s “micro mobility,” which, according to city documents, can enhance the Complete Streets Program as it serves as an alternative form of transportation.

While the city or company can terminate the agreement upon a 60-day notice, if it’s allowed to continue through the agreed 12 months, it will be automatically renewed for successive 12-month periods. Miller told the council that after Robert Singleton, regional director of government affairs for Bird Rides, gave a presentation on the program on May 17, the city looked into possible liability issues.

The company agreed to hold the city harmless from any actions, damages or claims brought against the city caused by the company’s negligence or willful misconduct, but does not include claims against the city caused by its employees or agents. The company further agreed to provide the city with proof of commercial general liability and automobile insurance up to $5 million.

Councilmember Tim Burns asked Miller if there was a forecast of potential revenue to the city. Miller said the pilot program would determine potential revenue. Burns also asked Hollister Police Chief Carlos Reynoso about his thoughts concerning the scooters “from a law enforcement perspective.” Reynoso commented that he has seen the scooters in various cities and that there have been varying degrees of success. He was mainly concerned about abandoned scooters and insufficient follow-up by the company.

“It comes down to the company you’re dealing with,” he said. “As long as it’s a reputable company and they’re committed to have their service people around I think it should work. I do have concerns about riding them on the roadways without helmets and coming into contact with vehicles.”

Burns said he was not inclined to vote for the pilot program until he was advised it could be terminated at will, and was willing to go forward if Miller would guarantee the city tracked the revenues. Councilmember Rick Perez asked where the scooters would be stationed around town. Miller said the company normally tries to partner with rental companies that would monitor the scooters’ locations and service them.

“They’re trying to reassure us that they use local vendors that will go out and pick them up and maintain them,” he said.

Bird Rides did not respond to BenitoLink’s request for comment.

 

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John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a BenitoLink reporter and an author. He has many years experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime that are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]