Providence to double e-bike, scooter options despite prior problems

THE CITY OF PROVIDENCE is poised to double the number of rentable electric bicycles and scooters on the street by September under contracts signed with existing operator Spin as well as new vendors VeoRide Inc. and Bird Rides Inc. PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO

PROVIDENCE – The city is poised to more than double the number of rentable, electric bicycles and scooters whizzing through the streets.

New contracts signed in July with three companies will bring another 1,200 scooters and e-bikes – 600 of each, divided evenly across the three operators- to the city by September. This is on top of the 1,000 Spin bikes and scooters already available.

Mayor Jorge O. Elorza in a statement touted the expansion as a safe, affordable and environmentally friendly transportation alternative. But it hasn’t always been an easy ride.

VAndalism, theft and safety issues forced the city to abruptly yank the scooters and bikes off the streets several years ago. Will putting the pedal to the metal bring back these problems?

The city says no. In an email, Andrew Grande, a spokesman for Elorza, said the city has an open line of communication with operators” if any problems arise as the program expands. Grande pointed to the success of the existing agreement with Ford Motor Co. subsidiary Spin, which was the city’s first attempt to get back in the saddle on the trendy transportation option after a hiatus.

Indeed, more than 600,000 rides have been taken on the fleet of neon orange Spin e-bikes and scooters since the company made its debut in Providence last June, according to Grande. He did not respond to follow up questions about if there have been any problems with theft, vandalism or safety with the Spin bikes and scooters.

Spin in pitching its wares to the city last year described a new fleet of bikes and scooters specifically designed to be “highly tamper resistant” and “with critical safety elements such as brake cables and drive train shielded from wear, tear, abuse and vandalism.

The latest round of additional bikes and scooters – including 400 more from Spin plus 400 each from VeoRide Inc. and Bird Rides Inc. – also have anti-theft protections.

A host of other conditions baked into the contracts protecting the city from liabilities for accidents and set minimum insurance coverage for each vendor, according to copies of the contracts shared with PBN. The companies are responsible for maintaining the vehicles and keeping them out of public rights-of-way, the contract states.

Each vendor will also pay the city $30,000 for permits and endowment costs associated with the bikes and scooters, in addition to per-trip fees.

Operators must also offer discounts to low-income users and alternatives to cellphones and credit cards for people who don’t have them – typically users unlock the scooters and bikes with a cellphone app, and pay through the app using a credit card.

The July agreements extend until Dec. 31, although the city can end the contract early if any of the conditions are broken.

Each bike or scooter costs $1 to unlock, with per-minute usage fees varying based on the company and choice of bike or scooter. Operators cannot increase fees by more than 10% without approval from the city, according to the contract.

Maps of bike-sharing hubs and scooter locations are available on the city ​​website.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. Contact her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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