City Council privately licenses Spin, Inc., banning Bird scooters from Ann Arbor

Monday, April 15, 2019 - 10:00pm

Mayor Christopher Taylor oversees the City Council meeting Monday evening.

Mayor Christopher Taylor oversees the City Council meeting Monday evening. Buy this photo
Alec Cohen/Daily

City Council voted on two resolutions Monday night that will alter public transportation in Ann Arbor this summer.

The first resolution addressed was the licensing of Spin, Inc. as the only serviceable electric scooter in Ann Arbor. The exclusive contract is effective immediately, eliminating electric scooter competition in Ann Arbor during the three-month license period. Aside from Bird scooters, which appeared throughout the city in August, other electric scooter companies that would also be banned from the city include Lime and Lyft.

The resolution to license only Spin comes amid the concern over other electric scooter companies’ inability to cooperate with the local government on restrictions and maintenance. When the Bird scooters were deployed in Ann Arbor at the start of the University’s academic year, the city responded later in September by seizing scooters left in the middle of sidewalks or city walkways. Neither the University of Michigan nor the city of Ann Arbor were aware of Bird’s plans to drop scooters in the city, and many community members expressed concerns over pedestrian safety, questioning whether people should be allowed to ride scooters on sidewalks.

Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, was unclear what this resolution would do with the impounded Bird scooters still possessed by the city of Ann Arbor. Assistant city administrator John Fournier said the city is working with the company to decide what that process would look like.

“We’re working out those details with Bird right now, and the intent is to return them to the company,” Fournier said.

Spin said they do not surprise cities with loads of scooters — according to their website, they collaborate with college campuses and city governments before launching.

“Our partnerships team works closely with the administration and student government,” the Spin website states. “Unlike some competitors, we never dump scooters without permission.”

Spin will deploy 200 scooters, comparable to the number of Birds that were initially placed in Ann Arbor in August.

Additionally, Spin will pay the city of Ann Arbor $5,000 for this license and $1 per day per scooter, for a total of $18,400. This is based on having 200 scooters operating in the city for three months. After the three-month period, the city must adopt an ordinance to extend or terminate the license.

While many students used Bird scooter charging positions as a form of revenue, Spin also has applications to become chargers. An Ann Arbor position has not been placed on their website as of April 15.

The resolution to enter into the three-month contract with Spin passed unanimously among councilmembers with no discussion.

The second transportation-related resolution confirmed funds for the first two-way protected bike lane in Michigan to start construction in May. The protected bike lane, which will include barriers to protect bikers from passing cars, is a $1,329,964 project to be built on William Street stretching from Fourth Street to State Street.

The resolution is the first of its kind in the state. City Administrator Howard Lazarus says the investment is worthwhile because the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority — the authority that will construct this project — will split construction costs with the city. The DDA will cover 65 percent of concrete resurfacing payment.

In addition to the construction cost reduction, Lazarus says the progress it brings for the city is also important to consider.

“This does benefit the city as well,” Lazarus said. “I think there’s a tremendous amount of prestige, as we are one of the most forward-looking cities in many areas in Michigan. This would be the first two-way protected cycle traffic lane in the state of Michigan.”

This resolution was raised as City Council acknowledged many residents bike around the city. There have also been alleged concerns from the University that too many bikes cut through the Diag, causing walking-pedestrian concern. The enhanced road safety for bicyclists provided by the protected lane is also an attempt to divert the bike traffic from the Diag.

Councilmember Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, said she bikes around Ann Arbor herself and does not feel safe with the current provisions for bikers on streets.

“I work in Angell Hall and there are times where I’ll walk and leave my bike there because I don’t feel as comfortable biking from campus to City Hall,” Grand said. “Everyone does ride their bikes. I think this is a great example of a city-University partnership and making our city safer.” 

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed a quote to Spin spokesman Frank Speek instead of assistant city administrator John Fournier.