A fleet of e-scooters is expected to land in Indianola this month as the “micromobility” startup Bird seemingly expands in the state of Iowa. 

 

The company reached out to Indianola about the launch and engaged with Simpson College and the Indianola Chamber of Commerce, along with the City Council, said Charlie Dissell, community and economic development director for the city of Indianola. 


Bird will provide and maintain a minimum of 50 e-scooters for the city, placing the scooters across 10 target parking locations that can be found in an app, Dissell said. A local representative hired by Bird will manage the scooters’ maintenance and charging needs.


“Our biggest concern is how they’re managed. It doesn’t take long to pull up on the internet complaints from bigger cities, but the agreement we have with Bird, I’m pretty comfortable with how that’s going to be taken care of,” Dissell said. “I think having that local representative will go a long way, because we’ll build a relationship with that person.”  


Brenda Easter, president and CEO of the Indianola Chamber of Commerce, said, “We had to do our due diligence to make sure that the opportunity is something that would truly be beneficial for people.” 


In an emailed statement to the Business Record, a Bird spokesperson said the company has partnered with cities with populations as low as 10,000. The company did not respond to a list of questions sent by a reporter, including which other regional communities Bird scooters are present in, and whether the company has plans to launch in other Iowa communities in the near future. Bird did not respond to requests to speak with Indianola’s representative.

 

“A growing list of cities, states, and countries are looking to micromobility alternatives, such as scooters and bikes, not only as a means of minimizing congestion but also as a way to support local economic recovery. We are excited to work with Indianola to offer residents safe and sustainable transportation during the pandemic and beyond,” spokesperson Alma Maldonado said in an email.


Bird launched a scooter fleet in Mason City in May. At about the same time, Davenport city aldermen told the Quad-City Times that Davenport had been approached by Bird about launching a scooter fleet. 


In July, Waterloo announced that a different mobility startup, Helbiz, launched 250 scooters in the city after securing a two-year permit. Bird had previously spoken to Waterloo City Council members during a May workshop, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported. 


The launch is happening as Indianola’s downtown square is undergoing two major construction efforts: the development of a new Warren County Courthouse, and a city project to repair water and sewer lines, then remodel some of the city’s streetscape. 


Simpson College already operates a campus bike share program, launched by the student Sustainability Club in 2019, and the Chamber of Commerce supports an ongoing initiative studying how the regional bicycle trails can connect to the Indianola square and Simpson College campus.

 

“This is one of those things that elevates this project a bit,” Easter said. “All of those things are about ... providing opportunity for residents and our visitors.”