Thank you very much for writing to me regarding Bird scooters – I share your dedication to reducing car traffic in Somerville, and as someone who bikes to work everyday, I'm very optimistic about dockless scooters and bike share programs in the near future for Somerville.
As you’ve likely heard, Bird deployed their scooters a few weeks ago in Somerville and Cambridge without any discussion with the city of Somerville – a highly unusual move, and one that made it unfortunately impossible for our Transportation & Infrastructure department to work with the company to ensure that these scooters were deployed safely and responsibly. Because of this, the Mayor's office has informed Bird that if the scooters aren't removed, Somerville will take them off the streets until safety and regulatory guidelines are established.
Of particular concern to me is the fact that Somerville is home to many senior citizens and others with mobility issues, and making sure that our sidewalks are clear and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is extremely important to our residents and to me (not to mention, legally required.) For example, the neighborhood that I represent (Ward 3, including parts of Union Square, Prospect Hill, Spring Hill, etc.) is home to six elderly and disabled residencies run by the Somerville Housing Authority and others, and I regularly hear concerns about unsafe sidewalk blockages from these residents. The concerns of these vulnerable residents absolutely must be balanced with the desire to increase non-car transportation. For some context, see this nuanced take from a non-car advocacy group, WalkBoston, here. It's also critically important to me that any company profiting off our public streets make meaningful contributions to our non-car infrastructure.
I have no doubt that these issues can be dealt with, as long as the scooter companies are willing to work with our city's administration to solve the various issues that have already arisen around this new technology. I can assure you that I will be working on the issue!
Lastly, if you're interested in getting more involved with "non-car" advocacy in Somerville, I highly recommend reaching out to the Somerville Bike Committee, and keeping an ear out for the Vision Zero Planning group that will be coming together in the coming months - these are really excellent local groups of residents/activists who have partnered with the administration to push forward on these goals.