Government

Popular scooter share program will return to Cedar Rapids

About 80 scooters and 150 bikes will be available to rent

The latest addition to a bike share program begun last summer in Cedar Rapids - electric scooters like these that can be
The latest addition to a bike share program begun last summer in Cedar Rapids — electric scooters like these that can be rented by the public. (B.A. Morelli/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — An electric scooter rental program that’s popular but also potentially a dangerous nuisance will not only be making an encore in Cedar Rapids but also expanding, city officials said Tuesday.

The scooters and bikes — introduced last year in Cedar Rapids and stationed on public walkways and available for rent over a smartphone app — are slated to return this spring, potentially in March depending on the weather.

“Our ridership has been pretty successful,” Sylvia Brueckert, a city planner, said Tuesday during a City Council meeting. “We’ve seen the scooters have been incredibly popular. They launched toward the end of August, this summer, and you can see once they were out people really liked using them and they were used a lot.”

The plan is to expand the scooter share from 30 to 80 devices and hold steady on bikes at 150. The devices mainly are powered by electric motors and each costs $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute to use.

The program saw 17,975 bike rides, 12,004 scooter rides and 5,241 total different users in 2019. While there are some matters to improve upon, there were no “huge issues,” she said. She identified a number of improvements for 2020.

Last fall, city officials were weighing whether to continue with the scooters, which were introduced as a trial in August, because of reports of improper use and cautionary tales from other cities dealing with injuries, litter and other problems. The bike program, in contrast, had far fewer gripes.

The scooters drew some complaints of people riding on sidewalks, which is illegal, being left in odd places and not being available when people wanted to use them. Some had also questioned who is liable in case of injury.

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But the scooters here have not caused any serious injuries and the issues were not as bad as some had feared.

“I think we are doing it the right way,” said Marty Hoeger, a council member who was leery from the start. “It has gone better than I envisioned.”

Hoeger noted Cedar Rapids awarded the contract to a single vendor, VeoRide, which owns and operates the program at no cost to the city. This allows the city more control and has limited the number of bikes and scooters, compared with other cities with multiple vendors and hundreds if not thousands of the devices.

“It’s obviously a success,” said Dale Todd, a council member who last fall said ‘the jury still is out.’ “It sounds like staff have a plan to address problems and avoid the craziness.”

Brueckert justified bringing back the scooters due to the popularity, new safety controls and the tightly run program.

Plans to mitigate concerns include new rule stickers on handlebars, notification on the app of local regulations along with details of where to park, additional signs and continued education and enforcement.

Brueckert viewed the scooter and bike share programs as here to stay, at this point, but changes could be made if problems arise. The matter was not up for a vote, but council members had some questions.

Council member Ashley Vanorny asked about the ability to restrict use of bikes and scooters in places they shouldn’t be.

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Assistant Community Development Director Bill Micheel noted the city would work with VeoRide to digitally geofence restricted areas, which already occurs to prevent the craft from entering the skate park and the downtown farmers market.

Council member Scott Overland urged continued monitoring of the program.

In other council actions, a $1.72 million equipment project updating chiller units and other items at ImOn Ice Arena gained support. The work would be conducted during the Cedar Rapids Roughriders hockey club’s offseason.

Between a recent naming rights deal with ImOn Communication that could reach $1 million over 10 years, extension of a use agreement with the Roughriders and city investment, the 20-year-old arena is “on a roll,” noted Overland.

Three flood control projects worth nearly $8 million also gained approval. These include installation of a levee near African American Museum of Iowa, a gate over Union Pacific Railroad tracks near Quaker Oats and a restroom and storage building that will integrate with a flood wall near the McGrath Amphitheatre.

And the council told city staff to more forward with plans, which will require future votes, on a two-year, $8.365 million project to close a substantial gap in the CEMAR recreation trail network along First Avenue N to the Marion city line. It includes an underpass at First Avenue.

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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