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Pine Bluff leaders hesitant to expand battery-powered scooters in city

Battery-powered scooters have been in Pine Bluff for nearly 6 months now, and with the semester over for UAPB, manufacturers are hoping to expand around the city.

PINE BLUFF, Ark. — If you look around, you'll see pretty immediately that battery-powered scooters are still a big thing in Little Rock.

If you visit the downtown area, you are sure to see them everywhere.

It's a trend that's blossoming in other cities too. In Pine Bluff, the people that live there consider the scooters as a new way to get around town.

"They started out at UAPB and everything is going well," said Joni Alexander, a city council member.

She said the scooters rolled in back in January by the Bird Company.

They are a big hit on the college campus and now that the semester is over, she said the Bird Company is hoping to go beyond that area.

"Initially, when they wanted to expand, it was all over the city to various neighborhoods to the parks, but there was no real clarification as to where," Alexander said.

That quick desire to expand became a big red flag for her.

"It didn't go through the proper protocols that we have in place for something like that," Alexander said.

The scooters are in the same ballpark as a bicycle, where riders are able travel on sidewalks and roads.

With limited walkways in the city, she said the only option for riders is the road.

"I don't like that part at all," Alexander said.

Another proposed area for the scooters are in city parks.

Samuel Glover is the director of Parks and Recreation. With the proposed expansion of the scooters, he admits that he also has some reservations.

"My initial concern was about safety and the infrastructure and the speed of the expansion here in the parks," Glover said. 

His desire to see the city continue to grow won't necessarily overshadow his concerns, but he's willing to compromise.

"If the council feels comfortable doing a trial run and seeing if things work here, then I'm all for that," Glover said.

Glover said the scooter expansion will happen soon and he's recommended MLK and a section of Regional Park as places people can ride during the trail run.

He added that test period could actually prove to be helpful in other ways too.

"Maybe the trial run will expose some things to say, 'okay, look, we need these bike lanes, [and] we need these trails,'" Glover said.

Alexander wants to be clear, she is not against the scooters, she just wants things done correctly.

"We don't want to have scooters just lay on the sidewalk. We want that local buy-in from the company that represents them locally to make sure that everyone is doing their job," said Alexander.

We reached out to the Bird Company, but haven't received a response.

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