Several Bird scooter “nests” were spotted throughout Louisville in mid-July 2018. The scooters were briefly removed but returned in August. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Louisville Metro Public Works has released a new policy that lays out a series of fees and rules dictating when and where dockless vehicles, including Bird scooters, can operate.

The new policy also limits the number of dockless vehicle operators to four. Bird already offers a new alternative mode of transportation in Louisville on a trial basis, and the bike share companies Gotcha and Lime, which also has scooters, have reached out to the city, said spokesman Will Ford.

The companies use mobile applications similar to the rideshare businesses Lyft or Uber to allow customers to find and pay to use a scooter or bike. Unlike Lyft or Uber, dockless vehicle users drive themselves.

Ford said the policy was drafted by looking at best practices that other cities have adopted after the transit was introduced. Concerns have been raised in other cities about parking and the possible obstruction of public walkways and sidewalks, as the vehicles are typically parked on the sidewalks.

“Given the need to ensure that operators providing micro-mobility transportation services account for the safety of all users of the right of way, this policy seeks to balance the public need for safe and efficient transportation options while providing for the safe addition of emerging transportation systems,” the policy states.

In a written statement, Bird said: “Since Bird first landed in Louisville, we have been thrilled to see its residents and visitors embrace our affordable, reliable transportation option as a way to get around town without having to get in the car. We have been working closely with Louisville Forward on making Bird an integrated part of the city, and we hope to continue cultivating that partnership as city officials implement its framework for e-scooters.”

Each company — including Bird — must go through a six-month probationary period and can only operate 150 vehicles to start. However, if ridership exceeds four rides per vehicle per day, then the company can add 100 more vehicles per month, up to 650 bikes, scooters or other dockless transit.

If ridership falls below an average 2.5 rides per vehicle per day, the company must reduce the number of vehicles.

Operators could be permitted to locate a maximum of 1,050 vehicles in Louisville if they complete the probation and meet standards, including responsiveness to complaints and ridership levels.

The map shows where dockless vehicles can operate. | Courtesy of Louisville Metro Government

The cost of an initial application is $2,000 for the probationary period and another $1,000 for a full-operating license after that. Following the probation period, permits can be renewed annually for $50 a year.

Dockless vehicle companies also must pay $100 per city-approved designated parking area and pay $1 per day per vehicle. If a company has 650 vehicles, that would be more than $230,000 a year; if four companies operate the max 1,050 vehicles, then the city would bring in $1.5 million alone from the $1 per diem fee.

To use a Bird scooter, consumers pay $1 up front and $0.15 per minute after that.

The funding from the per diem fee will be used to pay for shared infrastructure repairs, according to the policy. While the annual license renewal fee would cover responses to public complaints about dockless vehicle operators, data analysis, loss of public right of way and other expenses.

The new policy includes the following rules and regulations:

  • Dockless vehicles cannot be operated after sunset.
  • The vehicles can only be parked and used within the Watterson Expressway, with the exception of an extension out to Palatka Road in the south and Shawnee Park to the west. Waterfront is a restricted zone.
  • Companies face a $100 fine for every vehicle found outside of the designated zone of operation.
  • Dockless vehicles should be operated on streets, not the sidewalk, and in bike lanes and bike paths where available. They cannot travel faster than 15 miles per hour.
  • Metro must approve of the operator’s distribution plan in Zones 1, 8, and 9, which are mostly comprised of west Louisville, “to ensure adequate accessibility for residents of each zone has been achieved.”
  • Operators must submit monthly data reports to the city, including ridership levels, a breakdown of riders by age and sex, number of employees, crash reports and complaints registered.
  • If a vehicle is parked improperly, then an operator must move or remove it within two hours of being notified.
  • The city reserves the right to revoke, suspend or terminate a dockless vehicle operator’s license.

This post has been updated with a comment from Bird.