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Report: E-bikes and scooters made 450K trips in Prov. before summer exits

Providence

A vandalized JUMP bike with its locking mechanism removed, left over after the company pulled its bikes from Providence. (Corey Welch/WPRI)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – More than 50,000 people rode JUMP bikes before they were whisked from the streets over the summer, according to a new report on e-bikes and scooters released by the city of Providence.

The report shows that the bikes and two different brands of e-scooters, while drawing the ire of some pedestrians, drivers and property owners, were fairly well-utilized before all three left for various reasons.

The bright red JUMP bikes, which are expected to return sometime this year, were pulled by parent company Uber after repeated reports of the bikes being broken into by vandals and used in the commission of crimes. But before they left, the bikes went on 282,500 trips, according to the city’s audit.

More than 22,300 people rode Lime scooters and 15,800 rode Bird scooters for a combined 169,000 trips between the two scooter brands in the first year of the program. Both companies have now left the city—Lime left by choice after not being allowed the size fleet it wanted and Bird was rejected after applying for permit renewal.

The analysis of the JUMP bikes and electric scooters was done at the request of the Providence City Council, which passed a resolution requesting an audit in July.

The report was completed Friday and sent to the council, after Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan expressed frustration that a new company was allowed to deploy scooters in Providence last week before the report was completed.

“Why are these things done under the cover of darkness?” Ryan said last week. “I don’t have an issue with these e-scooters, I just think that we need to move forward in a mindful and planned way.”

She met with members of Mayor Jorge Elorza’s staff on Wednesday, who promised the report by the end of the week.

Ryan appeared unimpressed by the six-page report, telling WPRI 12 on Monday she expected something more “thorough and intentional.”

“Other cities that produce these types of reports not only report usage data, but include public survey results, collision and accident data, and recommended next steps,” Ryan said in an email. “My intention was that the administration’s report would be made publicly available so that residents and stakeholders get the opportunity to review the findings. The report submitted to me late Friday by the administration lacks this intentionality and omits important information and data that would serve to guide leaders on the future of these programs in our city.”

The main issue with JUMP bikes came after the company increased the size of its fleet in Providence in the spring of this year, and teens learned how to easily break the locking mechanism. The vandalism allowed the electric bikes to be used like normal bicycles, without paying and without the GPS feature that normally allowed the bikes to be tracked.

The electric scooters did not have that particular problem but were still subjected to vandalism and the occasional swim in the Providence River. There were also complaints about where the scooters were discarded after use; since they are dockless, the scooters would sometimes block sidewalks and driveways or were left on private property.

The report says the city’s new regulations use two strategies to address complaints by pedestrians: the maximum speed on the scooters is now 10 miles per hour (down from 15) and the city created designated parking zones “where operators are encouraged to deploy scooters.”

The analysis pegs downtown and College Hill as the most popular neighborhoods for scooters and e-bikes. The most popular time for a scooter ride is around 12 p.m. (No similar time-of-day data is included for the JUMP bikes.)

Unlike the scooter program, the city has put money into bike-sharing by purchasing $400,000 worth of bike racks with a federal TIGER grant. The exclusive contract with JUMP renews annually for five years but can be canceled at the end of each contract year or by the city for cause.

No date has been set for JUMP’s return.

“The City is working with JUMP to overcome the summer’s challenges and improve on the positive reception JUMP received throughout a majority of the community in the spring,” the report says.

The scooter companies are required to pay the city for the privilege of bringing their two-wheelers to Providence. The per-scooter fee has decreased in the second year of the program but the number of total allowed scooters has increased from 300 to 600.

Spin is deploying 300 scooters, which will add up to $45,000 in fees and endowments to the city over the next year. (The $15,000 endowment is reimbursable if it’s not needed for repairs and maintenance.)

VeoRide, the second company granted permits for 300 scooters this year, is expected to launch soon.

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

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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