The electric scooters that flooded St. Paul last week must be gone by midnight Friday, or the city will remove them.
St. Paul officials have told Bird Rides Inc. to get the scooters off the public right of way until Aug. 3, when the city will launch a pilot licensing program for Bird and other vendors, said Russ Stark, chief resilience officer for Mayor Melvin Carter.
The temporary licensing program, which will go before the City Council for approval Aug. 1, will require scooter companies to pay fees to the city, provide proof of insurance and obey a set cap for the number of scooters they can place. There will also be guidelines for right-of-way use and parking.
"We believe that we'll end up in a good place, having the pilot as the first step," Stark said.
St. Paul has been in negotiations with a dockless bike share company that is interested in providing rental scooters as well, Stark said, and the guidelines the city has created for them will provide a starting point for managing other scooter vendors.
The pilot program will end either with the first snowfall or on a date yet to be determined, Stark said. The city will likely issue a request for proposals for scooter services for 2019, he said.
A Bird spokeswoman said late Thursday that the company "is working closely with the city on their permitting process."
As it has done in cities across the country, California-based Bird placed scooters within the St. Paul public right of way without a permit, in violation of city ordinance.
St. Paul's response to Bird's abrupt arrival is softer than some. Milwaukee is suing Bird for placing scooters in the city in June, and people who ride the scooters risk a nearly $100 fine. In San Francisco, city officials issued a cease-and-desist order after the scooters arrived, saying they were illegal and a public nuisance.
In Minneapolis, where scooters also appeared last week, the City Council will vote Friday on an ordinance that would require companies to obtain a license to operate motorized scooters in the city.
Bird initially declined to say how many scooters it had placed in St. Paul, but Stark said he learned that they initially placed 100 and then scaled back to about 35 after the city asked July 10 that the company remove them.
The temporary prohibition before the pilot program launches doesn't mean scooters will disappear from St. Paul. Bird is working with downtown businesses to identify places on private property where they could park them, Stark said.
In a statement, Carter said the pilot program "will provide residents with access to this exciting new way of getting around our city."
Emma Nelson • 612-673-4509