Building a More Connected Chicago Through Accessible Micro-EVs

$226 million USD.

That’s the amount of Illinois’ massive infrastructure spending package being directed over the next four years to “support carbon-reducing projects, such as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure”.

As these projects begin to take shape in Chicago, they’ll be accompanied by the city’s first permanent shared micromobility service. This is a historic, perhaps once in a generation opportunity to better connect residents, neighborhoods and public transit.

Connecting Chicago Through Hyper-Local Operations

At Bird, we know this because we’ve seen it happen here. 

Between 2019 to 2020, Bird ridership in Priority Areas located in Chicago’s South and West sides jumped from 12.5% to 37.6% during the city’s two separate e-scooter pilot programs. This increase corresponded with efforts made by local officials and operators to ensure that vehicles were equitably distributed throughout the city.

We’ve also seen how our vehicles can shrink transit deserts, enabling riders to more easily reach areas of the city with few public transit options. In 2020, just under half of all Bird rides ended at least ½ mile from a rail station, with 20% ending more than a full mile away. 

This year, Chicago will go a step further. Half of all shared scooters will be distributed in equity zones, and Bird is proposing not only community and equity pricing options but also accessible vehicle programs similar to those we’re successfully running in New York City. This includes our exclusive on-demand accessible mobility program with Scootaround and unique, seated three-wheel micro-EVs. 

Connecting Chicago Through Community Engagement

Beyond these operational approaches, however, community engagement will be key to helping micromobility better connect Chicago neighborhoods.

This is why Bird has been committed to forming close ties with local community organizations including Equiticity, Grow Greater Englewood, the Chicago Urban League. By participating in micromobility education events, group rides and local round tables, we’re able to broaden our understanding of the needs of Chicago communities and how our services can best meet them.

“Partners like Bird have a significant role to play in helping Chicago improve equitable transportation access,” said Kevin Davenport, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the Chicago Urban League. “Their approach to listening, learning and engaging with Chicagoans from all parts of the city has been and will continue to be instrumental in developing a permanent micromobility service that truly serves the public good.”

Such close relationships also have a role to play in connecting micromobility to urban revitalization initiatives such as Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s INVEST South/West. A recent study from Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business shows that every shared e-scooter may provide up to $2.2K in annual incremental spending at local shops, cafes and restaurants. 

Bird’s ties with local business groups in Chicago will help us work closely with shops and restaurants to make the most of this information. Together we can employ strategies from preferred parking to partnerships with companies like Yelp to help drive economic benefits to area businesses. 

Investing in Chicago

Like the city’s historic infrastructure spending package, Bird is fully invested in improving transportation in Chicago.

We’re proud to be offering, in addition to the operational and outreach initiatives listed above, 80 community grants over the program duration focused on transit and workforce goals.

Our industry-leading micromobility experience and close community ties will enable us to help build, alongside local leaders and transportation providers, a more connected city with truly equitable access to micro-electric vehicles.

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Rethink urban mobility

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