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Fredonia takes new look at scooters

OBSERVER Photo by M.J. Stafford Bird scooters stand ready to go in Dunkirk’s Point Gratiot Park. Fredonia officials are taking a fresh look at implementing a ride-sharing system based on the scooters, after Dunkirk started offering them in May.

Fredonia is taking a fresh look at a scooter ride-sharing program that recently started in the city of Dunkirk.

Mayor Douglas Essek reminded the Board of Trustees recently that Bird, the company that provides the scooters, is still waiting for an answer from Fredonia. Bird representatives offered a presentation about the program to the board earlier this year, but trustees haven’t taken any action on it yet.

Trustee David Bird said Andy Woloszyn is overseeing drop offs and pickups of scooters for Dunkirk and would do the same for Fredonia.

“My understanding is that actually half the scooters are sitting there hoping that we approve the deal with them,” said Bird, who is of no relation to the company. “I’ve known Andy for a while, he’s pretty reputable as a business owner and I imagine he’ll do a good job.”

Trustee James Lynden expressed concerns that scooters “seem to be kind of getting strewn all over the place” in Dunkirk. He referenced social media reports that some scooters have been stolen, a few of them ending up in Lake Erie at one point.

Approached after a Department of Public Works meeting last month, city of Dunkirk officials said their program is going well.

“A few are damaged here and there,” said Michael Przybycien, deputy director of DPW. “Other than that they seem to be quite popular.”

Councilwoman Nancy Nichols said Woloszyn groups four or five of the scooters together in high-demand locations, such as the waterfront. He will switch locations based on demand, she said.

On Monday in Fredonia, Essek pointed out that if someone runs off with a device after their allotted time is up, GPS trackers on it will help find the person and the scooter. Similarly, if someone makes off with one without paying for it at all on the Bird company app, they can get tracked down.

“Either way, it’s not a village expense,” said Trustee Jon Espersen.

Lynden replied, “No, but once again, I’m concerned for the village residents of where they’re just going to be randomly left.” He said users had to take photos to confirm they were returning scooters, but did not necessarily have to clear where they were leaving them with property owners.

Essek touted the program and said this summer could be “a test run” for the program, which might attract people to downtown vendors. “I’ve seen a lot of young people riding around Point Gratiot, down Central Avenue, down by the lakefront, so people are utilizing it,” he said.

Trustee Michelle Twichell questioned where the scooters would get ridden in Fredonia, as there is no lakefront there. “It doesn’t matter. They’re just fun to ride,” replied Trustee Bird.

Espersen said the Bird company is experienced in these programs and would handle issues. Lynden said that though the scooters were supposed to be for people aged 18 and over, he had seen younger people using them, presumably paid for by older friends or relatives.

A proposed contract with the company is under review by the village’s legal counsel. Trustee Bird called for a vote on it as soon as possible. Essek encouraged the board to enact the program but added that, one way or the other, it must decide soon, as the “scooter season” is already well underway.

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