Some council candidates argue Bird, Lime leaving Raleigh shows growth-stifling policies

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With Bird and Lime planning to pull their electric scooters from Raleigh, some candidates in this fall’s municipal election say it’s emblematic of larger issues with how city leaders are responding to growth and change.

“These are all just small issues that can help build up to a bigger solution to those problems,” said Robbie Rikard, who’s running for an at-large council seat. “I don’t think they have a vision for what we want Raleigh to do over the next couple decades, and they’re more concerned about keeping Raleigh the way it is and keep change to a minimum.”

Both Bird and Lime cited regulations city council approved when they explained to CBS 17 why they’re leaving.

Earlier this year, Bird added a $2 fee on top of what customers already were paying to ride. City council voted to limit the number of scooters in the city to 1,500, with any one company being allowed to operate up to 500. The city also approved charging the companies $300 per scooter annually in addition to other fees.

Five other companies submitted proposals to the city to operate scooters: Bolt, Gotcha, Lyft, Spin, and VeoRide. It’s not clear how quickly city council will approve those proposals and when new scooters will arrive in Raleigh.

Council member Stef Mendell said the regulations were intended to promote safety, as city leaders wanted to keep the scooters off sidewalks in busy areas like downtown and would need to enforce those rules.

“I think the fact that five companies have responded to our request for proposals is a good indication we’re not stifling business opportunities here,” Mendell said. “Accommodating new people who are coming here and new businesses and making sure we don’t destroy the very things that brought them here in the first place, I think getting the balance there is really difficult.”

The scooters appeared last summer without the companies coordinating with city leaders first. Bird arrived first, followed by Lime.

Carson Hall, who lives in Raleigh, said at first she didn’t like the scooters because she thought they were dangerous and “in the way.” However, she later found them to be useful.

“They definitely needed to be regulated some, but I don’t think the answer is to totally run them off,” she said.

At-large council member Russ Stephenson responded to criticism about how the city has regulated the scooters.

“If scooters are a microcosm, I’d say it’s an example of how there are many facets to every new idea in the city,” he said. “Listen closely to all the legitimate concerns. Find out how we can find some common ground. And, I think the scooter thing is going to end up good. It’s going to end up in a way that is safer.”

Robbie Rikard said the handling of situations like the scooters and the city’s overall growth will be a key focus as voters head to the polls in October.   

“I think the current council is not as receptive to new ideas as they could be,” Rikard said. “Change is hard, and change is difficult. People don’t like change all the time. But, it’s necessary when you’re having this many people moving here.”

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