Bird Swipe-N-Ride E-Scooters Take Flight in Warren

WARREN, Ohio – Sara Daugherty was ready to ride Tuesday morning.

Equipped with a bright orange helmet, the director of partnerships at Brite Energy Innovators took the first ride on one of the Swipe-N-Ride Scooters electric scooters delivered to Courthouse Square just minutes earlier.

“I was very nervous,” she acknowledged. Her last attempt at riding a scooter was when she was younger than 10 and she “wobbled a lot,” she recalled.

The experience was smoother this time around.

Blackwell-Pinkard assists Sara Daugherty, Brite Energy Innovators director of partnerships, with the Swipe-N-Ride scooter.

“After the first 50 feet or so it was OK,” she said. “I definitely will be riding them again.”

Daugherty and Rick Stockburger, Brite’s president and CEO, were on hand for Swipe-N-Ride’s delivery of its electric scooters to Courthouse Square, across the street from the energy-based downtown Warren incubator.

Owned and operated by Warren native Leshawnda Blackwell-Pinkard, Youngstown-based Swipe-N-Ride is a newly launched local franchisee of the California-based Bird Rides Inc., which rents electric scooters. Blackwell-Pinkard said she reached to Bird after she saw the scooters in New Orleans.

Bird approached Warren officials in mid-January, Michael Keys, city community development director, said during a phone interview Tuesday.

Growth in downtown’s residential population is accompanying the growth in dining and entertainment venues, and it’s important for the city, especially to attract younger people, to show an image of being progressive, Keys said.

“We want to show Warren is a progressive city trying to shed the image of the Rust Belt,” he continued. “We thought this would be an advantage to the city.”

Warren is growing and experiencing a rebirth “and that’s just what we want to be a part of,” Blackwell-Pinkard said.

“We’re really excited to just see more electric mobility happening in the city,” said Stockburger, who also took a spin on one of the scooters. “Warren is the capital of the ‘Voltage Valley’ and it’s really cool that we have these scooters here. They’re really great for kind of last-mile transportation.”

Bird, which launched in 2017, operates in more than 120 markets worldwide, including in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and Oxford, a Bird spokesperson said in an email responding to a request for comment.

“We’ve found that smaller cities embrace Bird as a naturally socially distanced way to get around,” the spokesperson said. “The whole of Ohio is interesting to us and Bird is looking to bring shared electric scooters to more people in more places.”

The scooters, which have a range of about 40 miles before needing to be recharged, can be rented using a downloadable app that can pinpoint the location of a nearby unit. The patron scans the barcode on the scooter to activate and rent the scooter.

Brite president and CEO Rick Stockburger takes a ride on a scooter.

“It’ll give you the option to choose what dollar amount you want to ride for and you agree to the terms and conditions,” Blackwell-Pinkard said. They can be rented in increments of $5, $20 and $50. Each has a GPS unit to show its location, and she can remotely disable units that are being taken out of their service area or being used without authorization.

“I’ll have up to 100 scooters available for rent here in Warren,” she said. “I’ll release 25 here today and then increase it as we grow.” The scooters will be picked up at the end of the day and distributed the following morning to be used again.

“Our goal is to expand to the Youngstown area as well,” she said.

Daugherty predicts acceptance of the scooters will be great. Young people who aren’t comfortable owning their own car can use the scooters to get around town.

“I would love to use this just around Packard Park,” Daugherty said. “I go there during my lunch break, but sometimes I end up all the way at the other end of the park and I have to get back to work for a meeting. So now I know I can look for one of these and get back to work on them.”

She also expected they would be popular in Youngstown when they are introduced there, especially near libraries and in downtown.

The scooters will provide a convenient option for downtown workers who don’t want to use their cars to go to lunch, for people taking the bus to work but their workplace is “not necessarily a close walk” from the bus stop, or just would lack the kind of mobility that the scooters afford, Stockburger said.

“It’s kind of a fun way to get around,” he added.

“Residents and visitors of Warren deserve additional, sustainable modes of transportation. Bird is easy to ride, affordable and a fun way to get around,” the Bird spokesperson said. “Additionally as the city rebuilds, recovers and spurs economic growth in the wake of COVID-19, a new study from Emory University finds that e-scooter programs drive significant consumer spending in cities, which could greatly help local businesses.”

Pictured at top: Leshawnda Blackwell-Pinkard, owner/operator of Swipe-n-Ride Scooters, test-drives one of the e-scooters.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.