Curbed reported today that e-scooter startup Bird has pledged to donate $1 per day from each scooter they have in operation to fund the bikeways where their vehicles operate.
Sounds like an interesting idea. With Bird allowed to have nearly 700 scooters on the ground in Portland by the end of this week that would equal about $21,000 a month or $252,000 a year if the company sticks around after the initial pilot period. That’s a significant amount of funding given that the City of Portland can add buffers to 5.6 miles of bike lanes for $80,000 and their new protected bike lane design guide says the estimated cost of a basic, parking-protected bike lane is about $65,000 per mile.
And don’t forget, that voluntary contribution from Bird would be on top of the 25 cents per trip fee charged by the City of Portland. If the Bird scooters got 4 trips per day that would be another $8,400 per month — or about $101,000 a year — into city coffers from Bird alone.
Sightline reporter Michael Andersen must be grinning at Bird’s announcement because he wrote about scooter companies funding bike infrastructure back in July. “The answer to the problems of the e-scooter revolution will be bicycle infrastructure,” Andersen proclaimed. “We’re not talking about enough money to rapidly transform Portland’s streets,” he continued. “But if it were dedicated to bike-and-scooter lanes and parking racks, scooter fees could be a new, indefinite revenue source for active transportation…”
Of course a city-levied tax and voluntary corporate largesse are two very different things.
As a cautionary tale, it would be wise for Portlanders to read up on how Domino’s played city leaders to help carry out a clever PR stunt. Remember how the pizza giant got lots of buzz recently for offering to repair potholes? Vice dug into the campaign and found that — surprise, surprise — the ad agency working for Domino’s played electeds and city staffers like a fiddle, vastly underpaying them for their time while making off like bandits with free publicity.
Let’s hope these scooters work out, Bird keeps their word, and the City of Portland keeps their eyes wide open.
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