Latest Butler County community studies booming use of eScooters

A Lime electric scooter rests next to the scooter logo in the parking space on East Park Place which is one of two Uptown reserved for eScooters and eBikes in the Uptown area. CONTRIBUTED/BOB RATTERMAN

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A Lime electric scooter rests next to the scooter logo in the parking space on East Park Place which is one of two Uptown reserved for eScooters and eBikes in the Uptown area. CONTRIBUTED/BOB RATTERMAN

The use of electronic scooters by Oxford residents and Miami University students has not cut vehicle traffic as much as official originally hoped, but they said the service has been positive for the community.

Initially, two companies brought the eScooters to Oxford, but Bird stayed only through the end of that academic year and elected not to return.

Lime stayed through this past summer under a special arrangement with the city and experienced success this fall when the weather was warm but usage steadily dropped off during October.

“Lime is pleased to be here,” said Alan Kyger, the city’s economic development director. “Bird chose not to adapt to the unique Miami/Oxford environment.”

That “unique environment” included Miami’s refusal to allow eScooters on the campus and policy of impounding those found left on the campus. Lime has since worked out that issue with the university.

When the idea of bringing eScooters to Oxford was first raised, city staff decided to take a proactive approach, setting rules and requiring interested firms to register.

“Our two main concerns were safety and litter,” Kyger said, explaining litter referred to inappropriate parking of scooters where they impeded travel and inconvenienced others. Clusters of them on sidewalks or on the ramps leading to streets are a particular problem for vision-impaired or wheelchair-bound people.

Two Uptown parking spaces were designated for placement of eBikes and eScooters as central areas where users can locate one to use or park it when finished.

Geo-fencing of the vehicles is an enforcement tool used by Lime with GPS technology. It also allows them to be located by the “juicers” who collect them at night for recharging as well as prevents them from being left where they should not be located.

After impounding any eScooter found on the campus with rising levels of fees to retrieve them, Kyger said the university has agreed to allow them to be parked at existing bike racks.

If an eScooter is impounded by the university, Lime can track the user who left it there and the impound fee is charged to that person’s account.

Those wanting to use Lime’s eScooters need to be 16 or older and have a valid driver’s license. They set up an app on the phone which registers usage and deducts fees. A user looking to ride one can go on the app and the map will show nearby locations to find one available.

Kyger has access to reports of usage from Lime showing they had 225 eScooters available in Oxford the first week of Miami classes this year with 227 on Sept. 19. That number drops in October. There were 22,000 trips that month for an average of six-tenths of a mile each.

In a recent week, there were 2,000 trips with 1,000 riders.

“The heaviest days are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, not Saturday and Sunday. They are used predominantly by students, predominantly for class, therefore, heavier (use) during the week,” Kyger said. “I thought there would be a lot of leisure riders, but it appears they are used for class.”

It was initially hoped they might be used to decrease the number of vehicles being driven to the area of the campus, but Kyger said that has not been the reality.

“They are predominantly not taking the place of cars. They are taking the place of walking,” he said.

Safety concerns have faded as the eScooters have become more familiar sights.

“Our community is perfect for eScooters,” he said.

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