Local bird enthusiasts may be familiar with the murmuration of black birds in North Wheeling that swarm and settle in the trees there at twilight. But are you familiar with Wheeling’s newest flock of Birds? Bird Scooters, that is!

These sleek grey Birds began nesting around town earlier this summer. Wheeling is one of more than 450 cities worldwide to offer this fun, clean, car-free mobility option. The scooters first appeared at Centre Market, then began to be spotted all over the Friendly City. Now you can find the scooters at Market Cafe, Alpha Tavern, KFC on Wheeling Island, Wheeling Park, Greco’s, Karen Ullom Realty, Edgewood Park and River City. New area locations are also in the works.

It should be noted that the City of Wheeling does not own or operate these scooters. The Bird company owns the scooters and local franchise owners place and control them, according to Wheeling franchisee Christian Clark. Clark decided to invest in the Bird franchise to benefit Wheeling and offer a new mode of transportation in our area. “I wanted something new and innovative for Wheeling because people love to venture out and explore our nice city,” said Clark. You can follow all things Wheeling Bird Scooter and even suggest new locations via Facebook or Instagram.

According to the Bird website, the first step in your flight plan is to download the Bird – Ride Electric app on your mobile phone and add a payment method. In Wheeling, riding costs $1 to start and .49 cents per minute thereafter. Rider safety is top priority, and the app offers a brief beginners’ safety guide. The basic rules are straightforward: riders must be 18+ years of age; no more than one rider per Bird; and helmets are strongly encouraged. After perusing the safety guide, riders are ready to scan their chosen scooter and hit the pavement. (In a figurative way, of course – the goal here is not to flip the Bird!) Wheeling Chief of Police Shawn Schwertfeger tells Weelunk that the scooters are not to be ridden on the sidewalks; they are meant to be ridden in the roadway. Warwood resident Jenny Rodgers and her husband George enjoyed the scooters on a recent day date. “They were so fun! We hadn’t laughed like that in a long time!” Jenny Rodgers told Weelunk after their tour of Center Wheeling.

The scooters are meant to be fun, of course, but they also serve a practical purpose. They are intended to be a green, affordable alternative mode of transportation that complements existing public transit systems already in place.

When you’re ready to ride, open your app and scan the scooter. When you’ve finished, check the app for approved parking areas, park your Bird and hit “End Ride” on the app. You will also be asked to submit a photo of your parked Bird to show that you’ve chosen a safe and appropriate parking spot. Schwertfeger also stated that scooters must be parked in what is referred to as the “furniture zone,” which is the narrow area of the sidewalk between the curb and the main walkway. The Birds do not need to be returned to their original location. So If you see a Bird parked on a street around town, that indicates that it’s available to ride. In addition, if you spot a damaged or improperly parked Bird, you can report it via the app.

Jim Beasley of Wheeling took a Bird for a spin recently and shared the experience with Weelunk. He found his ride to be a thrill reminiscent of childhood. “Riding that scooter took me back to being a kid,” he smiled. “I haven’t felt that free in years!” Beasley also noted that it only took a minute or two to get the hang of it, even though he found the scooters to be a bit faster than he’d anticipated. The entire process proved to be simple and easy to manage, Beasley noted.

  • Wheeling resident Jim Beasley enjoying the ride.

Just like a good steak and a robust red wine, Bird scooters pair perfectly with the local mural scene. Wheeling artists are brightening outdoor spaces with creative oversized paintings and taking a Bird’s-eye tour of these works of art would be a great activity on a pretty fall afternoon. Birds of a feather, flock together – grab your friends and pick up a Bird in Centre Market. Visit the elephant mural there, then head north on the Heritage Trail to see the wildlife mural near 23rd Street, the peace sign on the trail behind Orrick near 22nd Street and the butterfly mural near the Heritage Port playground. Or scoot on up through town to check out the murals on Chapline Street near WVNCC and in East Wheeling. There are also murals to be seen at the pool in South Wheeling and Wilson Playground in North Wheeling, among numerous other locations.

Don’t be afraid to spread your wings on a Bird – you were born to fly!

• Ellen Brafford McCroskey is a lifelong resident of Wheeling and a proud graduate of Wheeling Park High School, where she discovered her love of writing as a member of the yearbook staff. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management at the former Wheeling Jesuit College. By day, she utilizes that degree at the international law firm where she is employed. After work, you can find her relaxing with family, friends, and her clowder of cats.

Leave a Reply