Blink Rides

Lana Kitto, owner of Blink Rides, poses for a photo with three of her scooters on Thursday.

An electric scooter company is set to hit the streets of Bozeman by this weekend.

Called Blink Rides, the locally owned business plans to offer about 100 scooters to the public across town. Owner Lana Kitto said she wants to help alleviate parking problems and help people better explore the city.

“We do have a mobility problem,” Kitto said. “We want to be more than just a joy ride.”

Beginning at 8:30 a.m. each day and ending at sundown, scooters will be available through an app, where users can locate them at the nearest parking zone. Then, they scan a QR code and take off, stopping at the next parking zone closest to their destination.

There will be parking zones across the city, with many concentrated in key commercial districts and downtown. Kitto said the scooters should help people get from parking spots in outlying areas to the heart of downtown faster.

Montana State University didn’t want any scooter parking zones on campus, Kitto said, but there will be parking stations near Pickle Barrel, Granny’s Donuts and Town & Country on 11th Avenue and by Sola Cafe on Kagy Boulevard. Riders can’t take scooters onto walking areas, but they can go on streets around campus, Kitto said.

Downloading the app costs 99 cents and each ride is $1.50 for the first minute plus 30 cents per minute afterward. Scooters can go a max of 15 mph and will have to stay within the city, locking up if riders try to go outside city limits.

Kitto said she got the idea to set up shop in Bozeman after riding an e-scooter at a conference in San Diego. When she got back, she said she contacted several larger e-scooter companies to franchise here, but Montana wasn’t an appealing location for them because of its snowy winters.

So she googled “How to start a scooter company” and went from there. She chose scooters that are “beefier,” she said, allowing her to operate into November. She’s also been working with the city to encourage people to operate the scooters safely and correctly.

Ride-sharing scooter companies are a trend across the country. Because they’re so new, cities have had to grapple with how to handle them, and have decided to disallow them altogether in some cases. A city panel in Missoula recently voted on Wednesday to block electronic scooter or dockless e-bike companies in Missoula for at least another year, if not longer, the Missoulian reported.

E-scooters have been criticized in other cities for safety reasons and for being littered or discarded outside designated areas. Kitto said she hopes to avoid those problems in Bozeman.

For someone to end a ride and stop getting charged, they need to be in a designated space. Her scooters are also about two times heavier than others, so she said it would be harder for someone to chuck one into a ditch or creek.

She also said she thinks people in Bozeman take pride in how the city looks, and young people are excited to see scooters stay here. She doesn’t think litter will be a problem in Bozeman like it has been in bigger cities.

“The answer to your question of how you stop it: Hope,” she said. “I have very strong faith that it will be respected.”

As far as safety goes, she said she has been working with city leaders to ensure people follow the rules. The scooters will be treated like electronically assisted bicycles and have to follow all bike laws, said Capt. Andy Knight with the Bozeman Police Department.

That includes staying off sidewalks and abiding the same traffic laws a car would, like stopping at stop signs and yielding to pedestrians. Police will soon be stepping up patrols downtown to ensure riders are following laws, he said.

The citation fee for riding a bike or scooter on the sidewalk is $40, and he said scooter and bike riders can be cited for things like reckless endangerment or careless driving. Helmets are encouraged.

“I would just say we’re encouraging people to use common sense and ride these things safely,” he said.

City Commissioner Terry Cunningham said he didn’t know if the city is scheduled to consider any ordinances surrounding scooters yet, as it is waiting to see how people treat the scooters and whether Blink fulfills its promise to collect and re-stage them each day.

Overall, though, he said the scooters could be good for the city. Some new people moving here from other places are used to scooters and like using them to get around. It could also help provide a more environmentally sustainable mode of transportation.

“We as a city are always interested in seeing if there are ways of reducing our collective carbon footprint by providing alternate means of transportation,” he said.

Abby Lynes can be reached at alynes@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2651. Follow her on Twitter @Abby_Lynes.

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