Facing decreased B-Cycle ridership, Bike Share of Austin deploys sit-down electric scooters

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Photo Credit: Isaiah Zaragoza | Daily Texan Staff

Alap Davé was waiting for a green light while on a Lime scooter at the intersection of Guadalupe and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. when he swapped his scooter with another rider to try out an OjO electric scooter for the next couple blocks. Davé said it felt weird to sit on the OjO scooter’s built-in seat, but it was still a smooth ride.

“I just haven’t seen many of (the OjO scooters),” economics sophomore Davé said. “It was a fun ride, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t be popular in Austin.”

In a partnership with Bike Share of Austin, which manages station-based bike organization Austin B-Cycle, the first OjO electric scooters made their debut downtown Jan. 23 as part of a soft launch of the new, Vespa-like devices. OjO’s scooters can travel up to 20 mph, according to Elliott McFadden, Austin B-Cycle executive director, while dockless electric kick-scooters such as Lime’s Lime-S and Uber’s JUMP scooters move at 15 mph. The OjO scooters also include a Bluetooth compatible speaker and a basket.

McFadden said the ride-sharing service plans to roll out 100 devices downtown by Feb. 1.

Bike Share of Austin has struggled to keep up with the increase in number of dockless electric scooters, which arrived last April. McFadden said the partnership between OjO and Bike Share of Austin is one of many things the nonprofit is doing to regain its ridership.

“Scooters initially got here in the spring (and) we saw really no impact, but as they’ve increased in numbers … we definitely saw an impact in our core downtown (B-Cycle) system,” McFadden said. “That system has been down, depending on the month, 50 to 60 percent year-over-year.”

Riders can access an OjO by downloading a smartphone app. OjO scooters cost $1.25 to unlock, then 18 cents for every minute after, while dockless electric kick-scooters normally cost a dollar to unlock and 15 cents per minute after, McFadden said.

“We think it’s very comparable,” McFadden said. “For the additional utility you get it out of it, it’s a small premium.”

 

McFadden said he expects to see OjO scooters deployed to the University area in the fall semester. Blanca Gamez, assistant director of UT Parking and Transportation Services, said in an email that OjO has not yet initiated a conversation with the University. The University is also not granting new scooter licenses at this time.

McFadden said the OjO scooters are not allowed to be parked outside of the downtown area without the rider incurring fines.

“If folks park their scooter in the wrong place, they’re going to get penalized,” McFadden said. “You’ll be alerted when you’re not parking in the right area.”

Even though OjO scooters are currently deployed in limited quantities, some students have already taken the new devices for a test ride. Business freshman Abbigayle Richards, who rides a dockless scooter about five times a week, said she felt more safe while riding the OjO compared to a Lime scooter, but was concerned about their size.

“I don’t think it would (be allowed) onto Speedway just because of the size,” Richards said. “But I can see it being a very popular mode to transfer to and from campus, like West Campus.”