The Wesleyan Argus | Bird e-scooters and bikes are coming to Middletown

“A Flock of Birds”, c/o Andrew Lu, assistant photo editor

As part of a Middletown sustainability initiative, Bird electric scooters and bicycles have been placed on the University campus since Wednesday, September 7, 2022, shortly after classes for the fall semester began. Anyone over the age of 18 can ride the scooters and bikes by downloading the Bird app and scanning a scooter or bike to start the session. It costs $1 to activate the vehicles and $0.49 per minute of use.

In recent years, Bird electric scooters have become extremely popular, not only among individual riders, but also in terms of corporate and large city partnerships. That partnership has now come to the University, where Bird scooters and bikes are scattered on campus sidewalks, among other locations in Middletown.

Eco-facilitator Kiran Kling ’23 worked with Middletown city officials last year to bring Bird scooters and bikes to Middletown. This is not the first time that a partnership between the city and a sustainable bike-sharing company was tempted to the University. In the spring of 2018, the University partnered with Spin Bikeshare, a bicycle rental company with docking stations, much like CitiBikes in New York or BlueBikes in Boston. The partnership ended, however, as the company went bankrupt nationwide in 2021.

“[Spin] also failed economically here in Middletown because they were trying to serve just the Wesleyan campus, which was not a big enough market,” Kling said. “People were cycling to Junior Village and they didn’t want to come back up the hill and the bikes were piling up.”

Kling used that past failure to structure his proposal to Middletown, stressing that Bird’s electric fleet is better suited to the hills of Middletown and the importance of involving both Middletown and the University in the bike-sharing partnership. In addition to forming an economically viable customer base for Bird, the combination of areas will help improve transportation between Middletown and Wesleyan. Kling hopes Bird’s fleet can improve relations between college students and Middletown residents.

“It wasn’t just so students could go to town,” Kling said. “It was so that the city could come to campus. We have all these wonderful happenings on campus like outdoor movies, concerts, events, and plays that should be accessible to the Middletown community.

Another benefit of Bird scooters is that they create a gig economy by hiring Bird scooter chargers. By creating an account through the Bird app, anyone over the age of 18 with a social security number can apply to become a Bird Charger. Once approved, Bird sends charging cables for the charger to keep at home. Then, at night, the charger “harvests” the scooters for overnight charging and “serves” the scooters to their appropriate “nests” in the morning. The payment to load a Bird scooter can range from $3 to $20 per scooter, depending on the scooter density in the area.

“He’s a pro for Bird scooters in Middletown in general,” Kling said. “It’s an injection of cash into the local economy.

According to Cole Ward ’25, who rides the scooters two to three times a week, Bird scooters are a great way to get around. Ward frequently rides the scooters between the Freeman Athletic Center and Fisk Hall.

“I have about 10 minutes to get there from the sports center,” Ward said. “So I have to use the Bird scooters, so it’s kind of convenient that they’re there.”

Others used scooters as a fun activity, something to do with friends. Sylvie Pingeon ’25 had wanted to try an electric scooter for a while. She described her first use of a scooter on campus.

“I just did a little 100 meter round trip loop and then got off the scooter,” Pingeon said.

Although Pingeon has never used the scooters to get to a particular destination, she still loves that they are on campus.

“I like having the option of being able to spin anytime,” Pingeon said. “The actual scooter seems less important to me.”

However, Bird scooters can pose potential setbacks for some. Catherine Hou ’26 has used the scooters two or three times, including a trip to CVS on Main Street which cost her $10. Hou blamed some of the cost on his friends who are learning to ride and therefore ride slower, but still expressed concerns about the cost.

“It’s not the most expensive, but it really adds up,” Hou said.

In addition to the price issues, some safety issues have cropped up about the Bird scooter under the influence. Kling, aware of this as he worked on his proposal, requested that the Bird scooters be turned off on Friday and Saturday nights. Although Bird has yet to implement it, Kling says he will continue to address this issue.

As long as safety guidelines are followed, Ward thinks Bird scooters and bikes are worth trying.

“It’s fun and fast, it gets you where you need to be and it’s a good time,” Ward said.

Ella Spitz can be reached at [email protected].

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