116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Earlier this year Veo, the company behind the green scooters and bikes in Cedar Rapids, rolled out a new and exciting addition to their fleet: the sit-down scooter. Just in time for reopening after COVID, this has been quite popular now that warm weather is here. While this may seem like a novel fad, it is actually an integral part in reconnecting the core neighborhoods and is an important step in the city’s path toward more walkability.
Wellington Heights was Cedar Rapids’s first suburb and it was meticulously laid out as a connected, walkable, social neighborhood. The streets are laid out in a grid with good alleys which was very progressive since at the time cars were uncommon. And the houses were set close to the streets with big front porches. This was all designed with a specific lifestyle in mind, one in which people spent more time both outdoors and, more importantly, interacting with their community. Back then it would not have been a big deal to walk downtown or to NewBo, and this was aided significantly by trolleys along First Avenue, Eighth Avenue, 15th Street and 19th Street.
It was this layered connectivity that allowed people to get to where they were going at a variety of speeds and degrees of social interaction along the way. That all changed after the urbanist, car-centric expansion in the 40s and 50s. The trolleys were scrapped and the destinations that people needed to get got further and further away, making cars a necessity even for core neighborhoods like Wellington.
The American population has seen a significant shift back to walkability. In Cedar Rapids, Wellington Heights is getting a second look from people who once wrote it off. There is good reason for this — after a year of isolation people want to be closer to amenities and they want to feel more connected with those around them. Wellington was built specifically with that in mind.
The Veo scooters are not nearly as functional as the trolley once was, but they are a step in the right direction toward making Wellington increasingly connected with downtown, NewBo and Kingston. As their fleet expands, and they get closer to saturation in our market, you are never far from one. They are considerably cheaper than an Uber and offer the convenience of getting you exactly where you want to go in just a few minutes. You can leave them at your destination and just find a new one for the ride back. And did I mention how much fun they are?
We all saw the unfortunate accident with the two young boys last week on Mount Vernon Road, but as the city continues to add bike lanes to more and more streets they will become safer and more accessible. Our city was built with pedestrian connectivity in mind but as it shifted to favor cars over people the designs of our roads changed. People’s tastes are shifting back toward walkability but it will be some time before the design of our roads reflect that. Until then, Veo Scooters are a step in the right direction.
Eric Gutschmidt is president of the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association.