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UND will soon have electric scooters

Between 75 and 100 dock-free, low-speed electric scooters will be deployed at UND initially.

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Electric scooters, made by the company Bird Rides Inc., are coming to UND pending the approval of a permit from the city of Grand Forks.
Contributed / Bird Rides Inc.
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GRAND FORKS – UND will soon be the first place in Grand Forks to have electric scooters, made by Bird Rides Inc. following the approval of a permit from the city of Grand Forks. After approval of the permit, 75 to 100 dock-free, low-speed electric scooters will be deployed at UND initially, said an announcement from the university, with even more in the following weeks for a total of about 140.

The exact date of the deployment has yet to be announced, but the permit was issued by the Grand Forks City Council to Bird Rides on Monday, Aug. 15. The council approved the permit unanimously and it is for up to 400 total scooters in Grand Forks, with an initial deployment of 200 scooters. The permit covers UND and the rest of the city.

Student leaders have been trying to bring the scooters to campus since 2018 and are excited to see the scooters deployed, said Cassie Gerhardt, associate vice president of student affairs

“For some of our students, it’s another mode of transportation,” Gerhardt said. “A lot of our students come without cars, but they want to get downtown and a scooter might provide them that opportunity to see more aspects of Grand Forks.”

To use Bird e-scooters once they are deployed at UND, users will need to download Bird’s mobile app, which will show available scooters and their locations. Scanning the QR code on a scooter will activate the rental, and costs to ride will be deducted from the rider’s credit or debit card account. Rides cost $1 to start and 39 cents per minute afterward.

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To start, riders will be able to operate the scooters only within UND limits, but with Bird Rides Inc. in the process of finalizing an agreement with the city of Grand Forks , scooters will be operable off campus in the future. Bird Rides is able to set boundaries for riders using “geofencing,” said Gerhardt, and when riders near areas where the scooters are not supposed to go, they will slow down and cease to work.

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The scooters have a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour, and riders are instructed to stay off of sidewalks, ride along the side of the road and use bike lanes when available. They are also advised to wear a helmet.

“Throughout the implementation process, our top concern will be student safety, and we are working closely with other UND departments to ensure that the launch of these scooters will be a convenient, affordable and secure method of transportation for UND students,” said Faith Wahl, UND student body president in the UND announcement.

Any accidents that occur on the scooters will be handled like any other accident on campus, Gerhardt said.

“Students really are riding them at their own risk, in the same way they ride a bike or their rollerblades or things like that,” she said. “We will respond and care for a student and provide whatever we can as we would if students are injured doing anything else these days.”

Bird Rides will have employees in Grand Forks that monitor the scooters, collect them for maintenance and recharging, retrieve any that end up in spots they should not be and redeploy them in designated areas on campus where riders can access them. In the winter, Bird will collect its scooters for “hibernation,” and redeploy them in the spring.

Riders will also be able to report feedback to Bird Rides about damaged or poorly parked scooters through the Bird app or by emailing Bird Rides at und-311@bird.co . When a report is submitted, a bird employee will correct the issue.

Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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