February 21, 2023

Pocatello is usually behind the curve in adopting new trends, which is a good thing because it gives the City the opportunity to learn from the mistakes/problems of other cities.

I’d expect a Council that’s excited about the Bird Rides e-scooter service, and wants it to be successful, would be a bit more thoughtful about what that might look like.  A solid ordinance, coupled with Bird’s safety education would go a long way to ensuring a smooth rollout of the Bird e-scooters.  Instead, on 02/16/23, the Pocatello City Council chose to proceed with a hands-off approach unanimously approving a 1-year MOU with Bird Rides, Inc.  Comments included: “We’ll see how it goes”.  After all, there’s an opt-out with 30-days of notice.
This questionable decision-making includes the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) drafted by Bird (and adapted by Pocatello’s legal department) with an “Indemnification” section releasing Bird Rides, Inc. from its indemnification (liability) obligations if the loss or damage was caused by the City of Pocatello’s negligent construction or maintenance of public infrastructure.  It also releases Bird from punitive damages.  (Is that even legal for City government to do?)
Pocatello already has a number of lawsuits (at least six by my last count.)  Two with sizeable multi-million dollar claims which, if the plaintiffs prevail, far exceed available ICRMP insurance caps, potentially putting city finances at risk.  The Council should do everything in its power to NOT put the City’s taxpayers interests at any further risk of liability.
The contract the City entered into allows the e-scooters to be ridden on sidewalks.  That (sidewalk) fact was confirmed by the City attorney during the Clarification Meeting, a pre-meeting held off-camera.  He also informed the council that the Police Department is uninterested in enforcement of the e-scooters.  (Rightly, so – they have more serious police issues to address.)
The plan is “no plan.” Even though e-scooters can “legally” be ridden on sidewalks, Mayor and Council will simply rely upon “responsible” riders to know the City wants the e-scooters to be ridden in the streets and know safe bicycle laws, how to negotiate intersections, where to legally park, etc.
How does their decision show a desire for the e-scooter service to succeed?  Does it demonstrate a commitment to public safety or protect the taxpayers from more liability?
Personally, I’m open to cautiously giving this service a try.  But, just once, I’d like to see proactive decisions made from thoughtful, thorough discussion and planning instead of the irresponsible ones we keep seeing from the City.  Ultimately, a failure to plan is a plan to fail.
Heather Disselkoen,




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