There’s a new way to catch a ride in Fort Wayne.
On Sept. 6, the city and VeoRide started its pilot program to provide access to pedal bikes and electric scooters that can be rented for public use.
Between now and December 2020, the Indiana-based startup will make 450 of their vehicles, 300 electric scooters and 150 pedal bikes, available to Fort Wayne commuters. During that time, riders can use the VeoRide app to unlock the scooter or bike of their choosing and get to where they’re going.
Upkeep of the scooters and bikes will fall to VeoRide, which, according to city urban planner Dan Baisden, is looking to hire local staff to pick up stray bikes and return them to certain spots as well as switch out the battery packs that are stowed in the baseboards of the scooters.
VeoRide got its start on the Purdue University campus. Two Purdue graduates started the program that has become a common sight on other area college campuses. The program has just begun to expand into city settings, Ben Thomas, VeoRide’s Midwest regional manager said, and the company is excited to be establishing a presence in Fort Wayne.
“There’s a lot of new development, and there’s a big draw to bring a lot of young professionals into the city,” Thomas said. “It’s a big draw for us to be here with our scooters and pedal bikes.”
Shared transportation has become the norm in most urban areas as a way to address multiple concerns often connected to urban living, including the carbon footprint and the understood transportation gap.
One of the more prominent shortcomings of public transportation is how someone is supposed to get to a bus stop and how he or she is supposed to get from the bus stop to a final destination when the bus doesn’t stop there specifically.
“This is a first- and last-mile solution for people who use public transit,” Baisden said. “Being able to get off your bus and find one of these nearby and being able to ride it to your house or whatever is big.”
Being environmentally conscious is one of the pillars that VeoRide was built upon. Its current logo even reflects that with a trio of leaves arranged to look like the handlebars and wheels of a bike. Thomas hopes that giving people an option such as a bike or an electric scooter as opposed to a car or bus will make even a small impact on how we’re treating our planet.
“We want to reduce footprints and we want to be environmentally friendly and really to to be a sustainable mode of transportation,” Thomas said.
There will, of course, be rules for using the VeoRide vehicles. Users must follow the rules of the road, so violations like driving under the influence or driving recklessly can result in consequences. The city has also outlined “no ride zones” in certain areas like the skate park and Promenade Park with geo-fencing data. Should a rider enter one of these no ride zones, the scooters will slow down to a stop until the scooter returns to a designated riding area. There is no way to enforce the same with bikes, but riders are asked nonetheless to respect the boundaries.
“We want people to walk through the parks nice and slow, not just zoom through them as fast as possible,” Baisden said.
After the pilot period, Baisden and the city will decide if they want to extend their contract with VeoRide or find other providers. Thomas knows about Fort Wayne’s checkered past with bike share companies, including the past complaints about errant bikes left unattended anywhere and everywhere. But Thomas is confident VeoRide will be able to sway the public that a program like this is a solid investment for the city.
“We’d love to change the perception,” Thomas said. “We want to bring every assurance to the community that we are going to provide another mode of transportation, but we want to be a partner. We want to be an active partner we want to work with the city reps we work with as well as the community and really listen to their concerns and answer them with solutions we have.”