West Lafayette’s new electrical scooter permits obtainable in April. Here’s which firms are in and which of them are out

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West Lafayette and Purdue had been clogged with Bird electrical scooters within the fall 2018 semester. Since disappearing at Christmas, scooters are poised for a comeback in April, below West Lafayette’s new allow system. (Photo: John Terhune/Journal & Courier)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The query on campus: When are electrical scooters coming back to Purdue?

“I expected them back when the weather got nicer,” Luke Mercer, an Indianapolis freshman learning enterprise administration at Purdue, stated this week. “I can’t imagine students wouldn’t want them back around.”

The hiatus on scooters in West Lafayette – began when Bird Rides Inc. picked some 1,700 of its rental two-wheelers off the streets the week of Christmas, citing winter circumstances – will proceed for at the very least one other two weeks, metropolis officers stated this week.

West Lafayette’s new scooter ordinance, finalized March four, kicks in April 12, demanding that firms pay $15,000 for an annual allow, plus $1 per scooter per day to function within the metropolis’s streets and park in newly designated parking areas.

This week, the town finalized its allow software paperwork. Erik Carlson, West Lafayette’s growth director, stated the town has been fielding calls from firms, whereas making it clear that no rental scooters would allowed till April 12.

“We’ll at least have one, I imagine,” Carlson stated. “And that’s our aim – to have scooters available in West Lafayette. This wasn’t written to keep them out. This was written to keep them in and keep it orderly. … It’s just not going to be like what we saw last summer, where people just came in during the night and dropped them off.”

People, on this case, could be Bird, a Santa Monica, California, firm, that introduced as many as three,000 scooters into West Lafayette and Lafayette in late August.

MORE: When scooters return, West Lafayette waiting with new rules, regulations and fees

WHERE DID THEY GO?: Bird scooters disappear from West Lafayette, Purdue for the winter

MORE: Bird scooters: West Lafayette resorts to towing as promises fall flat near Purdue

 

Customers, especially on and near campus, took to them immediately, using the company’s smartphone app to track a charged scooter, and then paying a $1 initial fee, plus 20 cents per minute, to ride. But there were complaints about riders slaloming through pedestrians on sidewalks and the dockless scooters left so they blocked sidewalks.

The new regulations allow the city to limit the number of scooters that companies may park each morning in newly designated parking areas. Carlson said the city is still establishing and marking the scooter parking areas.

“We will start off in the hundreds,” Carlson said. “And as we, one, see whether or not they’re being utilized and, two, we’re presented by the companies with data that show demand that’s not being met, and then we identify more parking capabilities, then we will, with board of works approval, increase that number.”

So, which company is going to come play? Here’s who’s in and who’s out:

Bird: The company has not responded to questions from the J&C since sending an unsigned note the day after the West Lafayette City Council approved the new regulations: “While we are encouraged to see West Lafayette looking to create a new framework for e-scooters, Bird is still considering our future plans in the market.” Weeks earlier, a company spokeswoman had sent a veiled implication that scooter rides could be more expensive in towns with hefty permit fees. Since then, Bird has been silent. (That includes in Lafayette; more on that shortly.)

Lime: Lime scooters remain Bird’s rival in the Indianapolis market. Taylor Bennett, with Lime’s communications, did not commit either way this week about West Lafayette, though a representative from the company told city council members during the regulations debate that the company was looking at the city.

Spin: Christine Yeo, in public relations with the San Francisco-based company, said Spin “will be applying for the West Lafayette permit when it becomes available in April.”

VeoRide: When that name was last seen on West Lafayette streets, the Purdue’s startup’s bikes were being booted from Purdue’s campus, as the university chose an exclusive bike-sharing contract with Massachusetts-based Zagster. VeoRide, founded by Purdue graduates Candice Xie and Edwin Tan, recently expanded its roster to include a scooter that has a battery that can be swapped out. (Bird and other similarly branded scooters are picked up at night by independent contractors, recharged and then returned to the streets.)

“We believe our e-scooter is a much better quality product than what’s currently available, because it’s designed and engineered by us, for the rigors of commercial/shared use,” said Linda Jackson, a VeoRide spokeswoman. “I can confirm that VeoRide is still considering scooters for West Lafayette/Purdue.”

THE PURDUE EFFECT … NOT IN EFFECT: At one point, as West Lafayette considered where to set limits on the number of scooters or the number of scooter companies in the market, council member Steve Dietrich stated what everyone was thinking: “Purdue’s going to have the biggest say. … They’re the elephant in the room.”

But after selecting a winner in the bike share market, going with Zagster over VeoRide in 2018, Purdue is deferring to West Lafayette and its permit process on this one.

“That will determine who comes on campus with which scooters,” Aaron Madrid, alternative transportation coordinator at Purdue, said Friday.

Madrid said campus regulations virtually mirror those in West Lafayette. He said there were no plans to look for an exclusive contract for scooters on campus.

“We’re obviously monitoring it closely,” Madrid said.

LAFAYETTE AND ITS PILOT PROGRAM: Lafayette, where city officials issued a cease-and-desist order to Bird late in summer 2018, forcing the company to remove its scooters, started a pilot program big enough for three companies to put up to 200 scooters on the city’s streets. Margy Deverall, Lafayette’s bike/pedestrian/mobility coordinator, said three companies – Bird, Spin and Blue Duck, a San Antonio firm – showed initial interest in a test period that has no set end date.

The pilot started in January. Not a scooter has made it to Lafayette since.

“And I kind of figured we would,” Deverall said, “now that it’s starting to warm up.”

Deverall said only Spin signed the necessary agreements – which include a set of working city rules, similar to those in West Lafayette’s new ordinance – and came through with proof of insurance, as required in the pilot arrangement. She said Spin officials told her they would deliver scooters yet this early spring.

She said Bird had not responded to the city since December.

On Friday, Casey Whittington, national director of government affairs for Blue Duck, told the J&C that the company had just informed Lafayette that it was backing out. Whittington said Blue Duck intended to concentrate on markets closer to its Texas home, for now.

Deverall said she re-opened the remaining two slots in the city’s program. She said VeoRide had shown interest.

“I’m waiting on others,” Deverall said. “I mean, here we are sitting with a scooter pilot program but no scooters.”

Reach Dave Bangert at 765-420-5258 or at dbangert@jconline.com. Follow on Twitter: @davebangert.

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