A new fleet of electric transportation will soon come to Oxford and the Miami University campus.
Oxford City Council voted last week to authorize a pilot program for shared bicycles and electric scooters, the first program of its kind in Butler County.
City manager Doug Elliott proposed the open pilot program so that multiple vehicle sharing companies could compete for the position and the city could test the additions in the short term.
“I’d like to get this up and running soon and hopefully get someone that will bring in both e-scooters and e-bicycles to the city,” Elliott said.
The program had first been brought to the council in February by the Miami Associated Student Government. Charles Kennick, who was an off-campus senator for the student organization last year, said that Miami students had wanted bicycle sharing on the campus for years. But it wasn’t until the rise of dockless sharing programs that Oxford and the student government began making progress with Spin, one of the major vehicle-sharing companies.
“Spin didn’t even have scooters when we started talking to them. That’s how fast this has all happened,” Kennick said.
In the months after the initial meetings about the program, Spin switched its focus entirely to electric scooters. Oxford scrapped the proposed program, which had only discussed bicycles, and began drafting the new pilot program that was open to other interested companies.
Part of the council’s goal was to make sure that permits and regulations were in place before any vehicles were brought in. Cities across the country have struggled to regulate the scooter and bicycles, which can be brought in without explicit permission, and in some cases have banned them until regulations can be written. Earlier this month, Cleveland ordered the company Bird to remove its electric scooters less than two weeks after it had installed them across the city without a permit.
Kennick, who is originally from Cleveland, believes that the way Oxford is handling the program will make it easier for both the city and the companies.
“In the long term, I think getting these regulations all set will clear up the possible gray areas that can come up around the scooters,” Kennick said.
Oxford’s regulations are based on the rules drafted by other cities to cover the new scooter and bicycle fleets, Elliott said. The permit program will require the companies to have a staff in Oxford that can answer questions, repair damaged vehicles, and make sure the vehicles are charged when users try to access them.
The scooter proposal also includes a discount program for low-income residents who may want access to the shared vehicles. The majority of electric scooters and bicycles cost $1 to activate and 15 cents for each minute of use. Bicycles can be used for $1 per 30 minutes of use with a monthly plan available for frequent users.
Lime is one of the largest scooter and bicycle sharing companies in the United States. The company already has programs in three Ohio cities and the campus of The Ohio State University. It is planning to also lauch a program soon at Xavier University, where Bird also has electric scooters.
“We’ve had productive conversations with Oxford about bringing our multimodal fleet to the city,” Lime’s Director of Strategic Development Todd O’Boyle said in a statement to the Journal-News. “Additionally, we’ve heard from many students at Miami University that they are very interested in Lime coming to their campus.”
Lime, Spin, and other ‘mobility sharing’ companies have scooters and bikes that include built-in GPS devices to track their location and electronic locks. Users will download the company’s app to find and unlock the specific vehicle they want to ride. The rider can leave the vehicle anywhere for the next customer to pick up and use the app to lock it and end their payment.
Some details still need to be worked out for the sharing program. The electric scooters need charging locations to stay at full capacity, and there are few locations uptown where several scooters can legally be parked together. One solution proposed by the council would take away parking spaces in the city to create the needed charging ports and racks.
The city has also requested that the incoming company share data about scooter usage and GPS positions with them to learn more about how the vehicles are being used during the pilot program. While the city has several rules in place for the program, Doug Elliott made it clear that some aspects can still be negotiated with the companies that want to come in.
“Once we get through a year and hopefully the industry finds some stability, we can then codify the resolutions,” Elliott said.