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A new 'Spin' on scooters

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Oklahoma State University is partnering with Spin to bring back electric scooters to campus.

The ban is over.

Oklahoma State University is bringing electric scooters back to campus three months after they were banned.  

When the Bird rental scooters arrived on campus in August 2018, students were seen zipping along the sidewalks to class in a timely fashion. The scooters, which provided an extra source of income for students, became an overnight sensation.

The excitement was short-lived. OSU enacted a ban on the motorized scooters on Oct. 15, 2018. The ban inspired students to take action, and, with the efforts of students like Jadan Terrazas, their voices were heard.

“A group of my friends and I had been charging the Birds, and we had a group message about it beforehand,” Terrazas, an agribusiness pre-law sophomore, said. “When the email came out, we were worried about our money disappearing cause we were making almost $100-150 a day sometimes. One of my friends kind of jokingly said, ‘Well, we should start a petition, and get them back.’ And I said, ‘Well, we should do it.’” 

The petition reached around 4,000 supporters after the first day.

After Terrazas met with Joe Weaver, OSU senior vice president for administration and finance, plans were being made to bring the motorized scooters back to campus.

Michael Bird, a biosystems and agricultural engineering freshman, is one of the numerous students who used the electric scooters on occasion. 

“I’m really excited about (the return of scooters on campus),” Bird said. “I’m a big fan of the scooters because they really cut out being late for class, and they’re a lot of fun to just ride around on. It’s something relatively cheap that you can just step out of the dorm and do with your buddies, and it’s a good time. I’m glad they’re coming back.”

The removal of the scooters was due to the safety concerns and permitting issues on campus, according to an announcement from OSU.

With the extra preventative measures that are being taken with the new partnered company, Bird said he has a lot of faith in Spin.

“After reading what the university said about that situation and after it was made clear what happened, I feel like Bird and Lime blew their chance,” Bird said. “OSU took our complaints very seriously. They tried to find a remedy and Spin gave them the best offer. Spin promised that they could control and offer cheaper scooters. I feel like maybe the service will be a little bit better. I’m open to it.”

While some OSU students have long awaited the return of the rental scooters, other students, like Loretta Lacy, are not as thrilled.

“I hated them in the first place and I still hate them now,” Lacy, a zoology pre-vet junior, said. “I walk everywhere because campus is pretty small. Having them in a small area with a lot of kids seems pretty dangerous.”

After witnessing friends getting injured and hearing of others getting hurt, Lacy said she is concerned about the possibility of injuries becoming more common with the return of the motorized scooters.

“I know that before they were banned, a bunch of girls that would go fast and hit rocks would end up hurting their face and they would break their arms,” Lacy said. “This one girl ended up having to get a skin graft on her forehead because it got tore up. I just don’t wanna see kids at school getting injured like that, and I don’t wanna see other kids getting hit or run over or tripping over them.”

Steve Spradling, director of OSU Parking and Transportation Services, said he feels Spin was the better option of the companies to bring on campus because of their respectful nature and willingness to comply to campus regulations.

“The reason for bringing them back is because the students wanted them,” Spradling said. “(Vice president Joe) Weaver told them we would, but we would bring them back in a responsible way.”

OSU decided to work with Ford Motor Co. scooter franchise, Spin, which gives students a cheaper option as well as enforces greater parking restrictions on campus. 

Spin was founded in San Francisco, CA, in November 2016. The company’s first dockless mobility operation began in July 2017.

The contract between Spin and OSU called for an initial launch of 200 scooters on Jan. 14, but the scooters didn't arrive on campus until Thursday. Spin is required to pay $236 per unit per year, according to the contract between Spin and OSU.

Despite the original plans for a launch of 200 scooters, about 50 appear on the Spin app on campus as of Thursday.

Spin believes a smaller launch and phase-up is the correct approach to ensure a smooth launch and effective establishment and enforcement of rules regarding parking and riding behavior, despite Stillwater's past experience with rogue launches from other scooter companies, according to the contract between Spin and OSU.

The scooters will be open to students and the general public and will feature GPS tracking to ensure that the rentals will be parked properly in designated locations. They will also remain at a controlled speed of 10 mph in campus areas, and allow for students to sign in with their university email address to unlock at half the price of Bird and Lime scooters.

An updated scooter parking map is currently in the works. 

Users can also select a Spin Unlimited Membership, which grants unlimited rides up to 30 minutes per ride starting at $14 per month. There is also a yearly plan for $49.

When it comes to the potential risks of safety and parking issues, Spradling said that proper measures are being taken.

“Safety is always a concern, but we’re working really hard to get parking locations in place, which we did not have an opportunity to do when the other scooter companies launched without our knowledge,” Spradling said. “Spin contacted me personally through email, and when I told them that we weren’t prepared to launch a scooter share on campus, they were very respectful and didn’t just show up like the others did. I feel like they have more integrity than some of the others.”

news.ed@ocolly.com