Hopkins launches electric scooter pilot program

Bird scooter (Supplied)

Another suburban community will soon add electric scooters to city streets. The city of Hopkins announced that Bird e-scooters are set to be delivered this week. That means residents and visitors will be able to travel from Hopkins to St. Louis Park or Golden Valley without stopping.

"With light rail coming to our community sometime soon, we know that this is going to be a great destination for biking, walking, and scootering," said PeggySue Imihy Bean, a management analyst with the city of Hopkins.

Brock Johnson, owner of Pink Elephant Vintage and Antiques in downtown Hopkins, estimates that foot traffic accounts for about half his customers and would like to see even more business. He said with a shop focusing on the vintage and antique, it can be a challenge attracting the young and hip.

"We're always looking for new ways to do that," Johnson said. "The vintage is really become more popular and that's for the younger generation. They want to buy stuff that they can actually use."

The city hopes the stretch of Main Street where Johnson’s business is located will benefit from the new scooter pilot program.

"We think this will be a great boost for them," Imihy Bean said.

The "dockless" scooters can be picked up and dropped off easily. The pilot program will run through November, weather permitting. The city hopes people will choose this more environmentally friendly option instead of driving.

"I think anything that brings more scooters here, fewer cars here is probably a good thing. We hear honking horns all day, and we see a lot of people park in the bus lane get tickets right outside our door," said Kelly Wells, sports card manager at Ultimate Collectibles.

The app designates downtown Hopkins as a "slow area," so the scooters will automatically reduce speed there. That is providing comfort for those who work nearby and have some questions about the logistics.

"It's great that the city of Hopkins is reaching out looking for new ways to bring younger people into town. We'll see how it works out at the end," Johnson said. "I'm just used to seeing them more around lakes and parks and stuff like that where you're going distance instead of shop, after shop, after shop."

City leaders say they know there will be hesitation from those who've never ridden an electric scooter, so they are re-assuring business owners.

"It won't block or interfere with their businesses because you won't be able to park it right in front of any one business, so there won't be just a ton of scooters all in front of one restaurant or shop," Imihy Bean said.

The Bird app does charge a fee upfront and per minute. The city will get a payment from the company for allowing scooters there, and Imihy Bean said the plan is to use the money to invest in bike and pedestrian infrastructure.