People have been shifting their Bird use from joyriding to work and errands over the past three months.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — When the Bird electric scooters swooped into Pittsfield back in April there were some that cheered the effort but more than few quickly took to Facebook to prophesy disaster — thefts, accidents and littering of the vehicles.
And who would use them?
But a call to the police earlier this month turned up no recorded complaints. Instead, the Birds have been averaging a total of 145 rides a day.
Bird tapped Pittsfield in April to initiate this new method of eco-friendly, affordable transportation for the county and to get research data to strengthen road safety.
"Bird has had a successful 2 1/2 months in Pittsfield since launching our environmentally-friendly e-scooter program," said Lauren Scribi, senior manager of government partnerships for the California-based company.
"We've been pleased to see how quickly residents have adopted the new mode of transportation, with more than 8,000 miles ridden and nearly 3,000 gas-powered car trips prevented."
The number of scooters available each day is determined by Bird and is based on the data that shows the need. Each scooter goes 15 miles an hour and costs $1 plus 39 cents per minute. The data shows that the average duration of a ride is 16 minutes and 14 seconds or goes approximately 1.8 miles.
Users can pick them up and leave them at random. Each has a GPS tracker and flight attendants gather them up as they need to be charged.
Bird entered into a revenue-sharing agreement with Pittsfield so its gets 15 cents per ride. So far the city has made about $1,639 in general revenue from this. What this money will be used for is yet to be determined.
The scooters have provided residents with a new means of travel that is both ecologically and economically friendly.
"We are committed to helping people replace car trips with eco-friendly and efficient trips powered by micromobility," Scribi said.
"We are happy to partner with the city and its residents to help minimize use of cars and encourage a mode shift to transportation alternatives that have lower carbon emissions."
Department of Public Services & Utilities Commissioner Ricardo Morales said the Birds are providing a mobility service to those without vehicles and quick trips for those with, which is especially important now considering the gas prices.
Based on a 10-minute walking commute, the Department of Public Services & Utilities generated data to show recreational and commuting usage and determined that there has been a shift from recreational to commuting.
The first month the scooters were launched, the data showed that more people used them recreationally by a drastic margin.
The following month, the data evened out with recreational usage ahead by a slight margin. The most recent data shows that the usage has shifted, placing commuting usage ahead by approximately 15 percent.
This indicates people may have just been trying them out at first and are now incorporating them into their everyday lives.
The department separated the city into 14 zones to determine the correlation between where the scooters are starting out and where they are being traveled to determine how many people ride between zones.
Morales created a map that shows the connection between zones. The thicker the lines are, the more scooters traveled between those two zones. What the map shows is that people are mostly riding scooters in downtown Pittsfield.
This data will allow the department to learn how to improve the safety of the roads because it calls into question why other zones don't have as a strong connection as others. The department will determine whether road safety is a culprit, and search for ways to improve the road so that is safer for those that used both active and passive travel.
Some comments on social media raised concerns about the safety of the scooters, with posters writing they had seen them almost cause accidents.
The Pittsfield Police Department said it didn't "have any specific information regarding the Bird Scooters."
Pittsfield has worked closely with Bird to ensure the safety of residents when it comes to the use of these scooters, said Morales, a strong supporter and frequent rider of the e-scooters.
"I think it's important to work with Bird to establish the limits of the operation from the get go. That's something we did. And I'm extremely happy that we did it that way," he said. "Working so that, the scooters cannot go to areas where the level of stress is higher in the transportation sense for someone on a scooter. We have measured that in the conversation we've had on bicycle travel, so it does translate."
Morales said they have received requests from people to extend the open areas on the map because they are unable to ride all the way to their house.
"Some people are saying these are, you know, accidents waiting to happen, crashes waiting to happen," Morales said.
"We have not seen that. So we're trying to promote active transportation. And it's been, it's working. Very good, I'd say."
Bird continues to spread across
Berkshire County Western Massachusetts, most recently landing in West Springfield on July 19. The scooters will be available in Pittsfield through November.