If you drivers and sidewalkers hated dodging scooters all summer ... well, you’re still screwed. Bird electric scooters will remain on Salt Lake City streets through winter.
A Bird spokesperson told City Weekly in an email that the Santa Monica-based company will not pull its dockless forms of transit off nearby roads just because the temperature has dropped and snow and ice are imminent. Instead, they’ll gauge local weather each day before making a decision. "We have a team dedicated to closely monitoring all conditions, and they adjust our operations accordingly,” the spokesperson said. “This includes pausing our service when weather does not permit safe riding, and can sometimes lead to removing Birds from the road during periods of inclement weather caused by storms or hurricanes."
As in the summer, people who charge the scooters, known as “hunters,” start collecting Birds at dusk. Riders can’t start a new scoot session after twilight. (Though they can finish their journey if they started before sunset.)
Lime, the other scooter game in town, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Greg Wilking, a Salt Lake City Police detective who’s been wary of the challenges the e-scooters could pose to community cops, sounded surprised when he was told Birds would remain on the streets through the winter months. “I can’t wait till we get two feet of snow, they all end up in snowbanks, the snow plows are just destroying them left and right,” he said. “That’ll be kind of interesting.”
Despite predicting widespread accidents after Bird and Lime scooters were dropped within city limits, Wilking said his officers haven’t responded to any scooter crashes. “It seems that the accidents that people are having, they’re crashing themselves and then going to the hospital on their own,” he said. “So, people are getting hurt, but we’re not getting involved in those.”
The Washington Post reported in September that the University of Utah Hospital’s emergency room saw a 161 percent spike in scooter-related visits—from eight to 21—compared to the same three-month period a year earlier. “It’s worth noting that these were only emergency department visits,” Dr. Troy Madsen, an ER doc at the U, said. “Patients with more minor injuries may have gone to an urgent care, and the patients we saw were probably those with more significant injuries who required a higher level of care in an emergency department.”
Another of Wilking’s fears, that drunk or high residents would use the scooters to get around, also hasn’t come to fruition—at least in the eyes of city cops. “I think this is going to be one of those really hard to hit things,” Wilking said. “They’re going to be rare cases. I expect something, sometime, but I just haven’t had anything.”
Wilking cautioned city scooter riders to be careful of slick conditions in the upcoming winter months. “The snow adds an unpredictable element that can get you into trouble,” he said. “It’s going to hurt a lot more, the colder it is, when you crash. It’ll sting more.”