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Electric bike share returning to Providence

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Nearly two years after rentable electric bicycles were pulled from the streets of Providence amid a series of issues, bike share is returning to the capital city.

This time it’s with a different company: Spin, owned by Ford Motor Company, is slated to bring e-bikes to the city as soon as next week.

Spin already operates an electric scooter program in Providence, the third company to do so since undocked e-scooters became popular in recent years. (Spin scooters are known for their bright orange hue, which is also the color of the bikes.)

Providence’s first foray into bike share was with JUMP bikes, which were popular in the city but also easy to break into, allowing people to ride them without paying and also taking them off the GPS grid.

Providence police said teens and young adults were often using the unlocked bikes to flee from crime scenes, and vandalized or stolen bikes were found abandoned on sidewalks, private property and even thrown into the river.

The bikes were pulled from the streets in August 2019, with a promise from the company to make them more tamper-proof and then eventually return to Providence. In the interim, however, the Uber-owned e-bike company was sold to a scooter company called Lime, and the bikes never returned.

Now the city has signed a new contract with Spin, which promises its bikes are “highly tamper-resistant,” and feature a pedal assist that can go up to 20 miles per hour, according to a specification sheet.

The company has received permits to have 400 bicycles and 600 scooters in Providence.

The plan is to use the same bike racks that were originally installed by the city for the JUMP bikes and which have sat empty throughout Providence for nearly two years. The city spent nearly $400,000 on infrastructure for the original bike share program, including the racks.

Spin has agreed to pay the city $80 per scooter and $20 per bicycle annually, according to the contract, plus five cents per ride, to be paid quarterly. The fees are meant to offset the city’s infrastructure investments in hosting the scooters and bikes, sometimes referred to as micro-mobility devices.

“As a municipal leader in the region, we care deeply about cities like Providence that set the standard for the breadth and quality of available mobility options to serve the needs of its diverse communities,” Spin executive Ashley Brown wrote in the company’s application.

The bikes and scooters fit into Mayor Jorge Elorza’s plan to make Providence more accessible through the use of various modes of transportation.

The bikes, which unlock using a smartphone app, will cost $1.00 to unlock and an average of 29 cents per minute, according to the permit application. Reduced fares will be available for low-income residents who sign up online.

The contract with Spin is only one year long, with a renewal option, and can be canceled with just seven days notice, in contrast with the previous five-year JUMP contract that required 60 days notice to terminate for cause. (The bikes only lasted 11 months in Providence.)

The Spin contract also explicitly states the company must remove the devices upon an order by the city.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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