Metro, News

City looks to strengthen e-mobility options, increase safety

JUMP bikes could return this spring, VeoRide scooters may expand further in Providence

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, January 24, 2020

Following departures of e-scooter and e-bike companies, the city plans to promote safe riding practices in order to increase the number of transportation options for all Providence residents.

On Jan. 9, WPRI reported that a car struck and injured a Providence man riding an e-scooter on a highway ramp. While this accident involved a personal e-scooter — not one from any of Providence’s vendors — scooter company VeoRide, along with Mayor Jorge Elorza’s office, is committed to addressing safety concerns.

Elorza’s office has “worked with our providers to continue increasing user safety precautions,” Patricia Socarras, the mayor’s press secretary, wrote in an email to The Herald.

VeoRide electric scooters were introduced to Providence in late November following the departure of several other electric ride-sharing companies this past year. Spin, another e-scooter sharing company, also recently launched in Providence but did not respond to request for comment on this story by press time. VeoRide is committed to producing safer scooters and promoting safe riding practices, especially in light of recent accidents, according to VeoRide Regional General Manager Matt Briggs.

“Safety is obviously a top concern for everyone in this industry,” said Briggs. “Where it starts with us is our hardware.” VeoRide scooters are heavier, have larger vacuum-sealed tires and a wider base than most brands of scooters, which contribute to their increased stability, according to Briggs. Additionally, front lights, tail lights and underneath track lights “make (the rider) very visible,” said Briggs.

Briggs also stated that most of VeoRide’s public messaging promotes safe riding practices, including staying off sidewalks whenever possible, being aware of pedestrians and wearing a helmet at all times.

Elorza’s office is also working to promote safe usage of e-bikes and e-scooters. “The City is engaging residents in pedestrian safety improvements, traffic calming measures and the installation of bike lanes,” Socarras wrote.

Additionally, to prevent incidents similar to the Jan. 9 accident, Socarras wrote that Providence’s e-scooter vendors geofence the ramps that lead to interstates and highways. Geofencing uses GPS technology to create a bounded virtual area that restricts scooter mobility. If a scooter crosses the geofenced perimeter, it will slow down and eventually come to a stop.

The mayor’s office aims to bring more scooters back to Providence after Lime Scooters and Bird stopped operating in the city, The Herald previously reported. The office is “committed to increasing transportation options for all residents,” wrote Katherine Hypolite, Elorza’s director of communications for planning and development, in an email to The Herald. “For many residents and visitors, e-mobility provides a sustainable, low-cost way to live, work and play around the city,” she wrote. VeoRide marks the second e-scooter company to come to Providence this fall after Spin launched 300 scooters in October.

Despite December generally not being “ideal scooter-riding conditions,” said Briggs, “we’ve gotten a lot of interest, both from customers and the media. The city’s been happy with us so far.”

While vandalism and crime have not been issues for VeoRide in Providence, according to Briggs, misuse of e-bikes caused JUMP to stop operations last August, The Herald previously reported. JUMP bikes have not yet been redeployed in Providence, but “the City is actively working with the JUMP team to finalize a relaunch plan,” Hypolite wrote. “We anticipate bikes will return in the spring.”

In addition to the reappearance of JUMP bikes, the city might also see the expansion of VeoRide. “If the client base and the ridership support a larger fleet,” said Briggs, “we’ll certainly make our case to the city and look to increase the number of permits we hold.”

Correction: A previous version of this article referred to Katherine Hypolite as the Director of Communications. In fact, she is the Director of Communications for Planning and Development. The Herald regrets the error.

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