Photo courtesy of Veo
FAYETTEVILLE — A new trail connection in west Fayetteville has led to an expansion of the city’s electric scooter program.
Companies Spin and Veo both will begin operations in a 3-mile area west of Interstate 49 beginning Friday, May 6, city officials announced on Tuesday.
The expansion was made possible after the recent completion of the Clabber Creek Trail extension and the Hamestring Creek Bridge, along with bikeway improvements on Salem Road, according to the announcement.
A “no ride zone” has been established for the Wedington Drive bridge over I-49, which means e-scooters entering the area will automatically power down in order to prevent riding on the bridge, which currently has no bike or pedestrian facilities.
To access areas east of I-49, riders should use the Meadow Valley Trail which runs from Shiloh Drive to Scull Creek Trail.
E-scooter expansion area in west Fayetteville
Usage of e-scooters has grown considerably since the program began with 250 scooters in late 2019, said Dane Eifling, the city’s mobility coordinator.
Spin and Veo now have a combined fleet of 1,000 scooters for rent that can be used in a 20-square-mile service area in Fayetteville.
In 2020, the companies reported 370,000 total rides, each with an average distance of 1.9 miles, Eifling told the City Council in a recent report. By February 2021, Eifling said those numbers increased to 496,000 total rides with an average distance of 2.6 miles.
An early 2020 online survey of about 200 people showed that 60% of respondents were happy or very happy with Fayetteville’s e-scooter program, while 27% were unhappy or very unhappy, and 13% were neutral, according to a chart Eifling showed council members.
“An optimist might look at this and say there are twice as many people who are happy than are unhappy, but we realized when seeing that 27% we had some work to do,” Eifling said.
The city has since held demo events, placed signage on trails, and added language in the rider apps that emphasize the local rules for scooter usage in efforts to increase safety and proper etiquette, Eifling said.
Other engineering-based efforts have included establishing “slow zones” that automatically slow scooters in certain areas using geofencing technology.
Eifling said parking issues generate the most complaints, so riders are issued warnings and then fines for improperly parking an e-scooter. There are areas around town designated as no-parking zones, and many of the scooters are equipped with sensors that send alerts to Spin and Veo full-time staff when a scooter is tipped over which could be blocking a sidewalk.
E-scooter usage in Fayetteville
“We’ve been very aggressive and proactive in giving users alerts and warnings,” he said.
Part of that process involves reviewing the pictures that users are required to submit of their parked scooters after a ride.
There were over 5,200 warnings issued in 2020 and 2021 that led to 148 riders being fined and four people banned from the program for parking and usage violations.
Overall, Eifling said he’s happy with how the program has developed through the years, and he’s excited about the future.
Veo recently launched its seated scooter pilot program to replace some of the standing floorboard models around town. The seated models allow riders to sit on a cushioned seat much like a gas-powered scooter or moped.
The idea is to make scooter riding more accessible by providing a comfortable ride for those who prefer the added stability of a seat and lower center of gravity, or for those who simple are not able to stand and ride for long periods of time.
Eifling said Spin is working on a new 3-wheel model that provides more stability and has self-driving technology that allows the scooter to park itself in a proper location.
“This industry is fast-developing and fast-growing,” Eifling said. “It’s exciting stuff.”