On Thursday, e-scooter company Bird launched a program that can make wheelchairs electric.
People who use wheelchairs and live in the east Bronx neighborhoods included in the city’s e-scooter pilot can now receive a free attachment for the duration of the City Council-mandated program, which began in August 2021 and will run up to two years.
The three companies participating in the pilot: Bird, Lime and Veo are all offering options for people with disabilities, as required by the city as part of the pilot. But Bird’s newly launched program is unique because it offers free devices that users can hold on to for the rest of the pilot period.
Bird has been offering four-wheeled electric power chairs that can be rented through the company’s app for 1-14 day intervals at $10 per day and can be picked up or delivered for a fee depending on the location.
Lime has been offering a similarly structured program, but for free, with a $5 refundable deposit. The company’s three-wheeled seated scooters can be reserved in advance online or through the app 24 hours to 7 days in advance, and be used for 24-hour periods, with free delivery.
Veo offers free adaptive wheelchair attachments — like the ones Bird is now offering — by reservation for up to a week with free delivery, and customers arrange everything through Veo customer service.
Bird’s new program will offer 350-watt motor lightweight removable Li-ion battery-powered attachments that are compatible with most wheelchair models, according to the company.
Residents in the phase one e-scooter pilot area — which includes the northeast Bronx, spanning from Woodlawn to Eastchester down to Van Nest and Pelham Bay — can utilize the program. When the second phase begins this summer, residents in the phase two area, which spans from Parkchester to Country Club down to Clason Point and Throggs Neck, can apply by emailing accessiblevehicles@bird.
The motors can make wheelchairs go up to 12 mph, according to a Bird spokesperson.
People who use wheelchairs will be able to navigate hills, inclines and long distance trips throughout the city, according to Bird.
One of the first program participants, Bronxite Eduardo Hernandez said the device helps him accomplish more faster.
“The new speed is awesome,” he said in a company release. “It makes supermarket visits and other errands significantly easier, and it’s incredibly useful with uphill climbs that would otherwise be very tiring.”
Bird representatives meet qualifying participants in person to deliver the wheelchair attachment. The representative will set it up and show the rider how it works.
The company is working with the city DOT, Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities and disability advocates to spread the word and find potential participants, the Bird spokesperson said.
The spokesperson did not say whether the electric wheelchairs are intended to be used on the sidewalk, road or bike lanes, but said the attachment should be used “for participants’ everyday travel needs to help them get to their destination more easily and quickly.”
A DOT spokesperson, however, confirmed that the accessible vehicles offered through the pilot can be used on the sidewalk, roadbed and bike lanes.
Read more about the e-scooter pilot here.
Reach Aliya Schneider at email@example.com or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.