Bringing a new product or service to a community usually involves some growing pains, something Jefferson City and company Spin are currently experiencing with the bike-share program and anticipated scooter launch later this month.
Skinny Labs Inc. — known as Spin — hopes to roll out 75-85 electric scooters tentatively Nov. 29, per the one-year contract between the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Commission and Spin.
Jefferson City was originally supposed to receive the scooters in July or September after the bike-share program debuted, but due to the high demand and manufacturing, the scooters were set to roll out this week. However, Spin had to again push off the launch date to finish manufacturing, said Amy Schroeder, community relations manager for the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.
"Scooters are in high demand right now, so they're having a problem with the supply," she said. "We could have had them here in September, but the demand on the manufacturer has been crazy so this is the earliest we could get them."
The scooters are battery-powered with an electric motor, said Ashley Varner, healthy communities coordinator for Capital Region Medical Center. They will go up to 15 miles per hour, she added, and drivers must ride them on the roads and greenways as they are considered a vehicle. She also encouraged riders to wear helmets.
Varner said she was not concerned with the winter launch date as it could remind the community of the bike-share program. She added riders will be able to access the bicycles and scooters throughout the winter.
"We are getting into winter so it is colder outside, but the good news is people can ride bicycles and scooters all winter long," Varner said. "We hope the cold temperatures don't keep too many people away from getting out and experiencing something new in our community."
Under the contract, Jefferson City was supposed to have only 75 scooters and 75 bicycles, but since the bicycle launch, about 10 bicycles have been decommissioned due to damage. Jefferson City sent the decommissioned bicycles back to Spin and decided to replace them with scooters, Varner said.
Some of the extra scooters will be housed in a separate location in case there is damage to the other scooters, Schroeder said.
Jefferson City and CRMC are not liable for damages or injuries from the bike-share program, Varner said previously.
Red Wheel Bike Shop, partnering with Spin, will repair any weather damage or maintenance issues to the bicycles, she added.
City staff expressed some concerns regarding snow and salt damage to the bicycles during the Jefferson City Public Works and Planning Committee meeting earlier this month. While there will be some maintenance on the bicycles, Red Wheel Bike Shop owner Nick Smith said, he is not anticipating significant wear and tear on the bicycles this winter.
"These bikes are meant to be outside," he said. "The chains that are on them are heavy duty, rust-resistant chains. I'm not exactly sure what all towns these bikes are in, but I'm sure there are some that are close to the ocean, so these things have to be resistant to salt. The bikes are just very simple, robust bikes that are meant to be out in the elements."
The sudden winter weather played a big factor in decreasing ridership, Varner and Schroeder said.
There were 242 trips during that first week of the bike-share program, and that number increased to 686 bike rides in August. However, since August, that number has been decreasing — 414 rides in September and 206 rides in October, according to data from Spin.
"We went from 90 degrees in September to 40 degrees in October, so the weather may have some effect on the ridership," Schroeder said. "It is getting into the colder months, so I anticipated the ridership to go down a little bit, and then in the spring, we'll see if it goes up."
Varner is currently looking for ways to raise visibility of the bike-share program this winter, such as doing a mayor's bike ride later this month.
The average rides per bicycle per day since the bike-share program launch is 0.27, according to Spin's data. Schroeder said Spin representatives would like to see that number up to one during optimal weather in the spring.
While the current usage isn't where Spin representatives would like it to be, Schroeder said, the company understood how sporadic Missouri weather can be.
Varner said she has not heard concerns from Spin regarding ridership.
A spokesperson from Spin did not respond to the News Tribune's questions by publication time.
Schroeder said she was not concerned with the decrease in ridership since the city is not monetarily invested in the bike-share program.
The one-year contract with Spin was of no cost to Jefferson City since Spin receives funding from private venture capital and operating revenue from other markets. Ford Motor Company also recently purchased Spin, but the bike-share company will remain an independent subsidiary in Ford's Smart Mobility division.
If the ridership does not increase in the spring and the community does not appear to embrace the program, Schroeder said, the Parks department will re-analyze the program.
Bike-share riders can download Spin's mobile app, enter their credit card information and pay as they ride. Riders pay $1 for 30 minutes to use the bicycles. Scooters will cost $1 to unlock, plus 15 cents per minute.
It costs more to use the scooters since someone will have to charge the scooters every night and place them back in the community every morning, Schroeder said.
The bicycles and scooters are GPS-enabled and dockless, so riders can pick up and drop them off anywhere in Jefferson City. Riders can see where available bicycles and scooters are located by downloading Spin's mobile app.
Those without a smartphone or credit or debit card are now able to access the bicycles after Spin Access hit Jefferson City in late October. Riders can purchase cards at The Linc, 1299 Lafayette St., for $10, scratch off the code on the card and text the code to a number to unlock the bicycles and scooters.