Tech

Bird launches electric motor attachments for disabled drivers

Although you can spot electric scooters dotting the streets of cities across America, New York has had a relatively slow entry into micro-mobility transportation. in the Spring 2021The city’s Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) has launched a limited pilot project that will make approximately 3,000 e-scooters available in certain East Bronx neighborhoods.

To make transportation more accessible for all, the city’s pilot called for the three participating companies to also provide wheelchair-accessible scooters. One of the companies, Bird, meets this requirement Introduction of a wheelchair attachment, equipped with an electric motor that engages on manual wheelchairs. In the foreseeable future, the program will be free for residents with disabilities who wish to participate.

[Photo: Bird]

The attachment, consisting of handlebars, a front wheel and a 350-watt electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery, attaches to the front of a wheelchair via the legs. According to Rebecca Hahn, Bird’s chief communications officer, the attachment is compatible with most wheelchairs with seat widths between 14 and 22 inches. Just like someone riding an e-scooter signed by Bird, a disabled rider rides via a throttle on the right handlebar; The auxiliary version also has a reverse gear on the left.

Bronx residents who register with Bird via email and are deemed eligible for the pilot will receive the attachments free of charge. Bird will personally deliver them to customers’ homes, and a technician will install the hardware in a process that takes up to an hour, after which the attachments should easily snap in and out within seconds; The technicians also demonstrate how to operate the engine. Bird won’t reveal the number of current attendees, but Hahn says the company is working with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities and groups like that United Spinal Association to find and identify more potential users.

Monica Bartley is Manager of Community Organizers at the Center for Independence for the Disabled (CIDNY), which works for independence and equal opportunities for all people with disabilities. A wheelchair user herself, Bartley says that “assistance devices like this would allow people to be more independent and not have to rely on someone to push a wheelchair,” especially when climbing steep inclines on some curbs, as she is doing in her does own neighborhood.

Bartley’s colleague, communications director Jeff Peters, was intrigued by the facility engineers. “I would like to know how familiar they are with different wheelchairs and how much experience they have in fitting them,” he says. “For some, a wheelchair or mobility device can be an extension of their body, so it’s important that all technicians treat it as such with care and approval.”

Eduardo Hernandez [Photo: Bird]

One early adopter who has been testing the gear is Eduardo Hernandez, 31, who lives near Yankee Stadium. Hernandez has used a wheelchair since 2008 after injuring himself in his native Puerto Rico. His manual wheelchair is now connected to the Bird device. “It helps a lot. I can move faster,” he says. “It’s like a little motorbike.” He uses it mostly for errands and finds that over long distances it’s more comfortable than rolling the chair with your hands , particularly in the hilly Bronx.The device can reach a top speed of 12 miles per hour.

Wheelchair users can drive the devices on bike lanes or sidewalks. However, CIDNY’s Bartley says they generally prefer to travel on sidewalks for safety reasons “unless an obstacle blocking the path forces us onto the road”. Hernandez says he only uses them at night because it feels safer then than during the busy day with traffic. Hahn assures that the devices have been tested for safety. “Our technicians worked with both the original equipment manufacturer and all Bronx program participants to install the necessary attachments and adjust the speed settings and controls before taking them out for a test ride,” she says via email.

Frequent Bird drivers have now become accustomed to the company’s well-known model of picking up and returning scooters via the app. But Bird deviated in this case due to the attachment process being less feasible under the original system. One reason for the pilot will be to assess how this model works and if users are comfortable with it. If successful, it can be expanded to other participants and new cities.

This is the latest addition to Bird’s accessibility offerings. In July 2021, the company entered into a partnership with mobility scooter specialist Scootaround provide electric wheelchairs for Bronx residents to reserve through the Bird app; This program has since expanded San Francisco and San Diego. Competitors Veo and Lime, the other two companies in the New York pilot, also offer accessible options. like bird, vehicle has a battery-powered unicycle attachment, whereas lime has built customized versions of its scooters, one with a seat and one with three wheels.

New York is set for expansion Its more general e-scooter pilot this summer in other East Bronx boroughs, doubling the number of vehicles to 6,000. According to NYCDOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez in a press release, the pilot’s first phase has logged more than 480,000 rides “with no fatalities or serious injuries.”

https://www.fastcompany.com/90734740/this-motor-attachment-from-bird-turns-manual-wheelchairs-electric?partner=feedburner&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feedburner+fastcompany&utm_content=feedburner Bird launches electric motor attachments for disabled drivers

JACLYN DIAZ

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