Despite reservations by Miami University, Oxford is going forward with plans for as many as two companies to provide electric scooter (or, e-scooter) service.
Alan Kyger, the city’s economic development director, confirmed two e-scooter firms — Bird and Lime — had paid a deposit and completed paperwork to register as providers in the city.
“I expect there will be an e-scooter program in town this fall,” Kyger said Tuesday, adding it was possible at least one of the firms could be set up by this weekend.
Jeremy Lynch, a representative of Bird, was in town Sept. 21 for a presentation to the Student Community Relations Commission to talk about their business model and answer questions about the service.
Kyger said four firms had contacted the city for information after City Council approved having the city manager write guidelines for e-scooter services, which were then reviewed by the Council members and posted to the city’s website.
Bird and Lime followed up by registering their intent while the other two — Zero Ride and Gotcha Ride — did not follow up.
Miami senior Charles Kennick, who is the Associated Student Government secretary for off-campus affairs, is the chair of the city’s Student Community Relations Commission. He spoke at the Sept. 18 meeting of City Council and said the Student Senate had met that afternoon and unanimously passed a resolution supporting a program of this type and recommending Miami University adopt a policy change to allow use of e-scooters on the campus.
He said that resolution also encourages the city and university to take part in joint planning for items of common interest.
It was student interest last year and this past spring that led to discussions of bringing Spin bike-sharing to Oxford. That did not happen when Spin changed their business model to scooters and declined to come to Oxford.
Again, it was student leadership which led to bringing the e-scooter firms here and the city to adopting guidelines for them.
Council member David Prytherch said of the student initiatives getting blunted by university caution: “When Miami underestimates its students, it does so at its own peril.”
Lynch said the scooter business has taken off in the past year and the firm is familiar with Ohio as they now offer their service in several university areas of the state, including, Xavier University, University of Cincinnati and Ohio State University.
He said his daughter attends Indiana University and sees the scooters not so much as public transportation as a way to get to public transportation. In that way, he said, they cut down on automobile trips and decrease need for parking.
“It’s a great way to get around,” he said. “We try to transform mobility. We decrease the use of vehicles on campus. We decrease the number of short car trips.”
He said there is also a benefit to businesses a little farther away from campus, allowing students to get there for services more quickly.
Lynch said the company’s experience has shown most trips are seven or eight minutes long and a mile or less. Top speed is 15 miles per hour and cost is $1 to activate the scooter and 20-cents a minute of use.
He said there is a series of screens a first-time user must go through with instructions on operation and safety tips. He said users will be expected to abide by all local regulations including where to “nest” the Bird vehicles.
The city will designate two Uptown parking spaces for that purpose.
Lynch said they will hire local students, not living in residence halls, to serve as “Chargers” who will collect the scooters every night at 9 p.m. and take them home for charging. They will also be responsible for taking them out in the morning and leaving them at specific locations as well as collecting them if a complaint is registered that one was left somewhere improperly.
The scooters have GPS tracking so they can be easily located. They encourage use of helmets and will hold give-aways at launch.
Use is shut down at 9 p.m. and Lynch said they will be taken off the road in the event of snow and ice for the safety of users.
He said they would likely begin with 100 scooters in town, although Kyger said the city has set a start-up limit of 150.
“We would like four to five rides per scooter per day,” Lynch said. “They should get 15 to 16 miles on a charge.”
He said they will also have “Bird Watchers” to keep an eye on the scooters and report misuse.
He was asked about accidents involving the scooters and said their experience has been approximately one in 30,000 rides.
With Miami objecting to use on the campus, he was asked about coming to Oxford working with the city and said they have experience with that scenario.
“Starting off, it’s not unusual to deal with the city and not the university,” he said.