Just as quickly as they flocked to campus in the fall, Bird scooters are migrating away from Bloomington for the winter.
The electric scooter company informed the city Dec. 28 it would be temporarily removing scooters due to low ridership, said Yael Ksander, communications director for Mayor John Hamilton.
“I don’t think they had really tested the waters in cold climates,” she said.
Although the scooters will return in the spring, their comeback date is undetermined. The company made a tentative agreement with the city to provide notice two weeks before its return, Ksander said.
Bird did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Lime, the competing e-scooter company, will be reducing its number of scooters in Bloomington for the winter without entirely removing them.
“We have adjusted our workforce to reflect the reduced demand due to university and school closures and severe snowfall,” said Lime spokeswoman Lara Beck. “We will scale back up as schools resume and snowfall recedes."
Amanda Turnipseed, IU Office of Parking Operations director, suspects the number of scooters from both companies may increase again once students return because the weather is still mild.
“I think they’re all kind of biding their time and playing it by ear,” she said.
Turnipseed also cited Bird’s lack of experience in cold weather, since the company is based in California. The issue of ridership in winter months in Bloomington has been discussed since its launch in the fall, she said.
Both Bird and Lime in November to continue business in Bloomington while city council considers a permanent solution. The companies agreed to pay the city an annual fee of $10,000 and an additional fee of 10 cents per ride on any scooter. Ksander said the companies are still responsible for the fees.
Both companies plan on keeping an open line of communication with the city throughout the winter, Ksander said.
“This is a new, alarming vehicle, but we hope they will return,” she said. “We hope we can find an effective way to integrate them into the transportation options in the city.”