Annapolis last week unveiled fee-based electric bikes and Bird scooters as part of a micro-mobility program to help people navigate the city in something other than a car while Noah Hillman Garage is under construction.
A few days into its operation, some residents began to wonder why parts of the city, including public housing communities, the Naval Academy and St. John’s College, and other private properties, n were not included in the program.
Some large private properties like those owned by the City of Annapolis Housing Authority declined to participate, but none were deliberately excluded from the program, said Cate Pettit, chief of staff for Mayor Gavin Buckley.
“There is no intention in any of this, deliberate or even accidental, to exclude these residents, but we must work with HACA and respect what they have asked of us,” Pettit said Friday.
In recent months, the city has negotiated with Bird, a national electric vehicle company, to place electric vehicles in nearly all 7 square miles of the city. However, some areas of the city were grayed out on the smartphone app, meaning scooters and bikes don’t work there. The company uses a technology known as geofencing to limit access to areas that also include most trails in Truxtun Park, around the Maryland State House and city cemeteries.
Several other large private apartment complexes like Nautilus Point, Shearwater Condominiums, Westwinds and Bayshore Landing are accessible with Bird.
This week, several communities that were previously off-limits, including Woodside Gardens, Annapolis Gardens, Bay Ridge Gardens and Admiral Oaks and private homes along Clay Street, became unrestricted.
The properties were mistakenly fenced off by Bird because they were supposed to be managed by the housing authority, but are not, said Mitchelle Stephenson, a city spokeswoman.
Buckley addressed the situation during his opening remarks at the Annapolis City Council meeting on Monday, urging residents to be patient as new vehicles proliferate on city streets and promising to adapt the program to the over time.
“We are a week into the introductory phase. Some areas around the city are geo-fenced which means scooters will not work in those places,” he said. “We built this to be inclusive and fair. And over the past few days, I’ve been thrilled to see people from all walks of life using them.
Buckley asked riders to follow the rules, including wearing helmets and obeying traffic laws. To register for the Bird app, passengers must certify that they are 18 or older, will wear a helmet when required by law, obey traffic laws, and limit one person per vehicle.
Free headsets can be obtained through the Bird app. The city will also be handing out helmets at events this summer, Buckley said.
The housing authority viewed the scheme as a potential safety and liability issue, executive director Melissa Maddox-Evans said.
Maddox-Evans’ agency, which oversees half a dozen properties and around 800 homes, has suffered financial difficulties in recent months and did not want to risk further property damage as a result of passengers entering the property HACA, she said. Instead, she advocated for Bird’s map boundaries to be as close to housing authority properties as possible so residents can still access the service.
“What I had asked for was that the bikes be usable on city streets that are next to our properties but not on the property itself,” she said, “so that we don’t have the task of removing bikes from gates and our lanes…. We don’t want them to be obstructions on our property, but we do want our residents to have access to them.
According to the Bird card, Maddox-Evans’ wishes appear to have been granted. For example, in the community of Eastport Terrace, commuters can use Frederick Douglass and Medgar Evers streets, but to reach nearby Harbor House, they must use President and Madison streets.
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A Capital reporter tested the limits of geofencing technology at the entrance to Gate 1 of the Naval Academy on Friday. Almost all of the city is accessible to silver and blue Bird devices, which can be unlocked via a smartphone app that guides users through payment and operating instructions.
When one of Bird’s devices enters one of the restricted areas, it stops working and a message in the Bird app reads, “Driving and parking are not allowed here.” Leave this area to be able to park and your Bird can resume its normal speed.
Bird offers a number of fair access-focused programs, including automatic discounts on rides starting in pre-determined fairness areas around the city and another option called Bird’s Community Pricing that offers 50% off standard unlocking and per-minute charges to low-income residents, veterans, seniors, and Pell Grant recipients. These programs are accessible via the Bird app.
“Bird is committed to removing barriers to micro-mobility and first- and last-mile transportation,” a Bird spokesperson said in an email. “For low-income residents, we understand that the issue of transportation equity is ensuring that our service is both affordable and improves access to Annapolis’s broader transit system. . »
St. John’s College declined to participate in the program due to ongoing construction projects, but that may change in the future, said college spokesperson Jen Behrens.
“Due to ongoing construction projects on campus, St. John’s has not determined how best to integrate the new bike share program into our campus operations,” Behrens wrote in a statement. E-mail. “We remain open to considering future involvement and will continue our conversations with the city on this front.”