The Minneapolis City Council on Friday approved two vendors to deploy electric-powered scooters for the much-shortened 2020 riding season.
Only Mayor Jacob Frey's signature is needed to finalize city contracts with Bird and Lyft to get scooters on the streets. Officials aim to have agreements in place by July 6 with deployment to follow soon after, said Jon Wertjes, director of Traffic and Parking Services.
A maximum of 2,500 scooters will be allowed on the streets, with each vendor rolling out up to 1,250 scooters in stages. Operators must observe COVID-19 cleaning protocols and procedures that are compliant with CDC guidelines, according to the resolution passed Friday.
"The sooner the better, that is our desire and theirs," Wertjes said. "We're expecting them to launch quickly."
Both companies have committed to equipping the first batch of scooters with locking devices, which enable them to be locked to bike racks or posts rather than left lying on sidewalks, Wertjes said. The city sought the locking devices after receiving 356 complaints last year about scooters blocking sidewalks and entrances to buildings.
A proposal in March by city officials had mandated the locking devices but was later amended to grant a grace period if necessary for vendors to comply. Two other companies, Lime and Spin, have locking devices on their scooters and encouraged city leaders to stick with the original plan to require locking devices on all scooters. But they weren't selected to operate in Minneapolis this year.
Given that many offices remain closed and it's unclear if schools will open this fall because of the pandemic, Wertjes said 2,500 scooters should be enough to meet demand.
But if ridership is strong and exceeds three trips a day per scooter, city officials could expand the fleet by a thousand and the vendors could supply scooters without the locking devices, he said.
At that point, the city also could tap other vendors such as Lime and Spin to fill the gap, Wertjes said.