Electronic scooters are coming to Colorado Springs. Scooter share programs have become popular in cities across the nation, and if all goes as planned, Colorado Springs will join the e-scooter club by the end of the summer. Scooter share programs, and bike shares like PikeRide, which has been a Downtown staple since 2018, help alleviate vehicle congestion in busy urban centers and offer mobility options to residents and visitors alike, but their rollout in other cities hasn’t always been an easy ride. Opponents of e-scooters in cities like Austin and Paris have complained about the way dockless e-scooters litter sidewalks and pose a danger to pedestrians.
Colorado Springs has decided to take a proactive approach to e-scooters. “We began a process, about a year ago, of exploring e-scooters, adding e-scooters as a transportation option in Colorado Springs,” said Todd Frisbie, a Colorado Springs city traffic engineer, during a June 21 City Council meeting. “The reason for doing this is to avoid having an e-scooter company come and dump their scooters on our streets and then we’re having to deal with the ramifications of that. We tried a very deliberate process, through a [request for proposal], for scooter companies we can partner with to provide scooter service to our citizens and our visitors.”
Frisbie said the city put out the RFP in March, and started with a pool of eight potential scooter share companies that submitted proposals. Four of those companies were shortlisted, and provided test scooters and apps and participated in virtual interviews. Of those four, two finalists were selected: Veo and Lime.
“More choices is generally better,” noted at-large City Councilor Wayne Williams. “A third choice opens it up and drives prices down.”
Frisbie defended the decision to go with two companies, citing Denver’s experience with scooter shares. “We were pretty sure we didn’t want to go with one,” he explained to Williams. “In the end there were two firms, these two firms stood out the most, as opposed to the other two firms that were also shortlisted. We decided to go with two. Looking around the country at some other models, Denver recently did the same process and they selected two firms as well. We feel like it will be good competition with the two, and it will help us manage that, two firms rather than three. In the end, two firms stood out as the cream of the crop and that’s who we went with.”
The selection process was managed by a committee of city employees and members of the Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs. “The Downtown Partnership has been advocating for getting involved and being proactive in terms of, rather than having a company just kind of show up and drop scooters within the community, to make sure that we could do it in a way that’s organized so we could lay the groundwork before those companies came in,” explains Chelsea Gondeck, director of planning and mobility for Downtown Partnership. “We really see it as an expansion and another offering of a mobility service. In the same sense that PikeRide is there, it’s going to increase accessibility because these companies came forward with options for tiered pricing for different populations of individuals. It just makes most sense for people who are traveling a distance that’s a little too far to walk but not worth driving. Similar to PikeRide, it’s going to create less pollution, less car traffic.“
According to data Frisbie provided to City Council, 35 percent of car trips in the United States are under 2 miles, and the average scooter trip is about 1 mile. “You’re not going to have to be worried about parking, moving your car, paying for parking,” says Gondeck. “It’s going to allow individuals to connect to all of the different areas throughout downtown that are seeing expansion. If someone is up at the new Ed Robson Arena and wants to head down to the new South End for dinner and drinks, then they can just easily access one of these scooters and take it down there as opposed to get in a car and have to move it, [or make] close to a 25-minute walk. This is just going to allow it to be faster. In the same sense, we want Downtown to be less car-centric, and we want the traffic to be calmed. As we enhance options that aren’t car-centered, it’s going to allow people to increase that and lead to that traffic calming, and of course it’s just an enjoyable ride.”
For Veo CEO Candice Xie, Colorado Springs’ proactive approach to e-scooters matches their business philosophy. “We have been around for scooter share and bike share for over four years now,” she says. “We started in 2017, and one reason you might not have heard of us is because we grow our program very cautiously. We’re not like other vendors in the industry. We want to develop one program, we want to make sure it’s sustainable so it can grow for a longer term. We provide very customized shared scooters. It includes a lot of safety features and we have a very collaborative operations approach as well. With all this combined, I think that’s why the city of Colorado Springs chose us to offer a scooter share program to the city.”
Among the features the city was looking for in potential scooter-share providers was the ability to “geo-fence,” or limit the ability for scooters to operate outside designated areas. “Within the contracts that these providers are going to be executing are requirements for designated parking areas, and within their designated apps there’s controls to make sure you can’t just leave a scooter wherever you want,” explains Gondeck. “It has to be parked within a designated parking area, and all of that is being established in coordination and post-review through the city. I know some other things we hear are certainly about the safety of utilizing the scooters. Within the agreements and contracts and standard operating procedures of these providers, they have [rider] education and we can build within their applications specifics to our city and requirements on how they want that to work. Even things like where you’re allowed to ride the scooters to where you’re allowed to park them to where you have to get off and walk them, all of that is integrated into their application.”
Xie is familiar with the concerns people have about scooter share programs. “A scooter share program, when it’s new, it takes a lot of education efforts both from the city and our end,” she says. “I think we’ll be purposefully providing a lot of education programming, to help people understand how to use it and where to use it. We are also continuously doing a lot of safety education in the app and hosting community events, making sure everyone is on the same page. Everything takes time, and we all want to make sure we are the driving force to help people respect, and also use this wonderful alternative mode of transportation well in the community.”
Xie says the speeds of the Veo scooters will be capped to 15 miles per hour, and all riders must be 18 years or older. To avoid stray scooters littering sidewalks, Veo would have designated scooter parking areas for customers. “From our end, we’ll set up different hubs within the city and encourage people to park and pick up the scooter from those specific hubs,” she explains. “We’ll also educate people where they can and cannot park the scooter.”
In addition to the scooters providing a novel transportation option for the city, it will also bring new jobs to the local economy. “Both of these companies are going to have a local presence,” says Gondeck. “They will both be hiring local staff and having warehousing space in town for maintenance, storage and recharging the scooters and their batteries.”
The selection of the two firms is not a carte blanche for a scooter takeover, Gondeck notes. “All of these are going to be on a one-year pilot program,” she says. “They’re going to have continuous check-ins to see if they can continue on. Them having deployed successfully in very similar markets, that was the biggest, I think, proponent of why these specific companies were chosen.”