Burlington adjusting to new bike-share program

Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 4:30 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - If you’ve driven through the Burlington area this summer, you may have seen blue e-bikes in places they don’t seem to belong. Following the departure of an e-bike sharing program last summer, the people have spoken, and the bikes are back in the Queen City.

There are at least 200 of the electric Bird bikes sprinkled throughout Burlington. Silent and speedy, Bird bikes have caught the eye of many Burlingtonians. Some residents, like Tenzin and Ethan, think it’s a great benefit to the city. “More bikes, less cars. That’s a great thing,” said Tenzin. “It’s really cool, people can go use them whenever,” said Ethan.

Bikeshare company Bird says since the end of June, Vermonters have taken almost 15,000 rides on the bikes, a number they say measures the success of the launch and is increasing with the return of college students.

“They were nice for getting around early in the year when it was hot out and I didn’t wanna walk everywhere,” said resident Ben Romano.

Unlike other Burlington bike shares, Bird bikes do not have docks, meaning you leave them behind after you ride in a place where you’d expect to see a bike, like next to a sign or on a bike rack. It’s a business model to increase convenience for riders, but it’s led to some bikes being strewn across the city. “A lot of times I see them on the sidewalk, sometimes I see them sitting in the middle of the road,” said Ethan.

“Sometimes you see a Bird bike out and about beyond its natural habitat, on a rooftop, in a river,” said Tenzin.

“They’ve ended up in some pretty weird places, especially on campus. Hidden in some tiny little corners -- pretty funny though,” said Romano.

We even found one bike in someone’s backyard when we searched for ourselves.

Lauren Scribi with Bird says riders and citizens are encouraged to report a misplaced Bird through the app. She says they get around eight to 10 complaints per month on average. “Typically if the bike is tipped over, this person is parked in the wrong place. We do appreciate folks reporting vandalism of the bikes. So, thank you to those who have. There have been a couple of instances of people stealing the bike seats and spray painting the bikes,” said Scribi.

Burlington has two on-the-ground fleet managers who check the bikes daily for damage and batteries. She says the managers reach all 200 bikes every three or four days and relocate them if necessary. Scribi says the complaint numbers are on par for a new product in a new market as residents get adjusted. She says the company plans to bring more bikes to Burlington.

The Chittenden Area Transportation Management Association says they’ve been working with community members and students who have recently moved back to the area to educate them on proper use.

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