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Shared micromobility startup Bird pilots electric attachments for wheelchairs

Bird
Image credits: Bird

Bird, a California-based micro-mobility startup, announced that it has launched a limited pilot to test battery-powered attachments for a wheelchair to increase e-mobility access for the disability community.

The announcement comes after the initial launch and subsequent expansion of the company’s on-demand accessible mobility program with Scootaround. 

With Bird and Scootaround, persons with disabilities can find, reserve and pay for any of several accessible vehicle types using a custom rider interface available only in the Bird app. 

Image credits: Bird

Adaptive program

The ‘Adaptive program’ will be a part of the New York e-mobility pilot in the Bronx. Individuals in the pilot area can apply for the programme and if they qualify, the Bird team will meet them and guide them on how to use it, reports Techcrunch. 

In an interview with TechCrunch, a Bird technician says, “The installation process takes 30 minutes to an hour with a Bird technician. After the initial installation, the device should latch on and off a wheelchair in seconds.”

The primary focus of the program is a battery-powered attachment compatible with most wheelchair models. It is a 350-watt motor featuring a lightweight removable li-ion battery and separate forward and reverse throttles.  

Bird says that the attachment allows participants to more easily navigate hills, inclines, and long-distance trips throughout the city.

Image credits: Bird

Working with participants

After extensive testing in its own facilities, the company says its technicians worked with all Bronx program participants to install the necessary attachments and adjust speed settings and controls before taking them out for a test ride.

“Bird’s adaptive program is already helping me move faster and accomplish more,” says Bronx resident Eduardo Hernandez, one of our first program participants. “The new speed is awesome. It makes supermarket visits and other errands significantly easier, and it’s incredibly useful with uphill climbs that would otherwise be very tiring.” 

“This is a great addition to the accessibility of micro-mobility in the Bronx,” said Jose Hernandez, President of United Spinal Association’s New York City Chapter. 

He adds, “Bird’s program will greatly benefit members of the New York City Chapter of United Spinal Association who are individuals who predominantly use wheelchairs. I am also excited to see what other innovations are made in accessibility within the micro-mobility space in the Bronx and beyond.”

The program is currently available in the Bronx, San Francisco and San Diego.

Trial extension in Canterbury

In other news, the Department for Transport (DfT) has extended the trial of shared electric scooters in Canterbury, meaning their use will be permitted within the authorised zone until the end of November 2022.

The extension is to allow more data about the use of electric scooters to be gathered and reported back to DfT. The extension only permits Bird electric scooters to be used in the authorised zone. 

KCC’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, David Brazier, says “We welcome the opportunity to continue hosting this trial of electric scooters in parts of Canterbury.

He contiues, “The economic and environmental benefits of electric micro-transport are well documented, but it is crucial we monitor the progress of this scheme to get a true understanding of how people use and interact with them.

“We look forward to continuing work with the DfT to understand if and how the use of these vehicles has a place in Canterbury and the wider county going forward,” he concludes.

While the electric scooters are provided by Bird, KCC is responsible for hosting them on its network in the operational area and gathering the views of local people.

James Padden, General Manager UK & Ireland, Bird, says, “We are thrilled to support the trial extensions together with Kent County Council as demand for our vehicles continue to rise.

“We can see an almost fourfold increase in rides compared with this time last year, demonstrating significant untapped demand from Canterbury residents for a convenient, clean and fun alternative to motor transport.

“Our scooters are also especially popular before or after a train journey, showing that micromobility is fast becoming an integral part of the transport mix for the city. 

“We applaud Kent County Council’s dedication to reducing carbon emissions in Canterbury and we continue to work closely with them to achieve our mission of making cities more liveable.”

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