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Bird sitting

FD woman manages scooter fleet

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Dereka Burton, of Fort Dodge, poses with a collection of BIRD scooters at her home recently. Burton rents out the scooters within Fort Dodge city limits. She started the business in June.

There’s a new mode of transportation that has become increasingly popular among Fort Dodgers.

Electric scooters that travel up to 25 mph have been seen more frequently along the city’s streets in recent weeks.

These scooters are called Birds. And the flock belongs to 21-year-old Dereka Burton. She rents the scooters from the driveway of her Fort Dodge home.

Burton discovered the company Bird one day while browsing online. She noticed there was an opportunity to apply to become a fleet manager.

“I saw it online and applied for it, almost as a joke,” said Burton, a 2018 Fort Dodge Senior High graduate. “And then they called me the next day.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Dereka Burton, of Fort Dodge, takes one of her BIRD scooters for a spin recently.

On June 15, she picked up 35 scooters, which were shipped from Santa Monica, California, Bird’s headquarters. On July 12, she acquired a new fleet. Burton, a 2017 now has a total of 105 scooters.

To rent a scooter, the Bird app needs to be downloaded on a smartphone. Next, you use the map on the app to find the nearest Bird.

To start the ride, scan the Bird’s QR code with the app. Hit the throttle on the right to go and pull the brakes to slow.

The rate to ride is 39 cents a minute, which comes out to be about $23 an hour.

Burton said the the top speed of a Bird typically ranges between 20 and 25 mph depending on the weight of the individual riding it.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Dozens of BIRD scooters line the driveway outside of Dereka Burton's Fort Dodge home. Burton began renting out the scooters in June. The rate to rent a scooter comes out to about $23 an hour, she said.

“These new ones are a little faster,” she said.

After the person is done riding it, the kickstand is to be used to keep the vehicle upright. The Birds are to be parked away from public pathways.

Burton spends a lot of time getting the Birds back home.

“It is like a full-time job,” she said. “When the riders are done, they park them. I go get them all the time. I scan them to pick them up. I can deploy them all over town.”

She said the Bird is not to be picked up or placed in a car or home.

“It makes a chirping noise as a theft device,” she said. “The alarm will go off if you pick them up. You can’t put them in your house or your car.”

One particular Bird has been misbehaving.

“There’s one scooter, I reset it and it won’t stop screaming,” Burton said. “It has issues.”

Burton gets some help rounding up the scooters from Brent Polaschek and her step brother, Gordon Bargfrede.

“It’s nice to have a little extra help,” she said.

Burton also fixes the scooters herself. The company sends her what she needs to repair them.

Burton said some people don’t like the scooters.

“Some people get angry when they die near their house,” she said. “Some people don’t like them.”

And the scooters also can’t be ridden on the Iowa Central Community College campus.

“It shows a red zone at Iowa Central,” Burton said. “A no ride or park zone.”

According to Bird’s official website, its mission is “to make cities more livable by reducing car usage, traffic, and carbon emissions.”

Burton said the scooters are a joy to ride, but safety should be a top priority.

“The scooters can be dangerous,” she said. “I want people to know about the safety aspect. Watch for your surroundings. They are street legal.”

In terms of where to ride them, Bird’s website says, “Stick to bike lanes, not sidewalks, unless state or local law requires. And when you’re riding past traffic, be sure to follow all street signs and laws.”

Burton also said helmets are are strongly recommended.

Burton was born and raised in Des Moines. She spent second grade and some of third grade in Fort Dodge before moving back to Des Moines. She later returned to Fort Dodge when a member of her family became ill. She finished high school in Fort Dodge.

“It’s a good community here,” she said.

The summer has provided good riding weather.

“With it being nice out I ride my scooter a lot,” she said. “I strap my speaker to the back and ride out. It’s fun — going to ride with my friends I like to be outside and stay busy.”

She’s anticipating a busy day on Monday as thousands of cyclists will be riding through Fort Dodge for RAGBRAI.

“With RAGBRAI coming up, I think it’s going to be really busy,” Burton said. “People will be looking for different types of transportation. I’ll be helping out with RAGBRAI and riding my scooter around.”

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