City Council member says Bird should be liable in cases of scooter misuse

Posted at 1:48 PM, Aug 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-29 19:29:09-04

CINCINNATI -- A City Council member filed a motion Wednesday proposing that any permanent agreement between the city and the rental e-scooter provider Bird will oblige the company to cover damages suffered by individuals in the event of a scooter's misuse.

In a statement issued late Wednesday morning, Council member David Mann said, in part, "Bird is a profit-making activity which has landed here for one purpose, to make money for someone. Profit is fine but the damage inflicted by any enterprise must be assumed by the business, not an innocent public."

Since arriving in Cincinnati in late July, public reception has been mixed. On one hand, Bird told City Council member P.G. Sittenfeld during a meeting Monday that they might need to bring more scooters to town because demand has been so high.

On the other hand, multiple people living and working in Over-the-Rhine and Downtown have written to City Council concerned over their safety while walking through the neighborhoods.

In an Aug. 28 email to council, Scott Moorman wrote, "I work on Fountain Square and walk to nearby restaurants for lunch every day. I have been nearly hit three times in the past few weeks while standing on the sidewalk waiting for a walk light to cross the street."

As WCPO previously reported, scooter companies like Bird and Lime have faced litigation in cities across the country, in which individuals are claiming both personal and property damages due to an incident involving the rental scooters.

"Bird has agreed to indemnify the city for acts of Bird for which someone might attempt to hold the city responsible," Mann said in his statement. "That is fine for the city. But what about innocent citizens who are injured by Bird customers."

Cincinnati police confirmed to WCPO that it was investigating at least one incident in which a pedestrian reportedly was injured during a collision with a Bird scooter.

An attorney involved in a case out of Austin, Texas -- in which a motorist claims a Lime e-scooter rider collided with his car before fleeing the scene -- called such cases "uncharted waters."

A week after the scooters' arrival, the city issued interim guidelines for their use on city streets, including restrictions against riding the scooters on sidewalks and obeying all traffic laws.

Xavier University announced last week that Lime will bring dockless rental bikes and scooters to the campus in the near future.

Pat LaFleur reports on transportation and mobility for WCPO. Connect with him on Twitter (@pat_laFleur) and on Facebook.