A VeoRide bike is parked among other bikes outside Green Hall

After VeoRide's bike sharing partnership with the University grew in popularity, the company is now attempting to bring electric scooters to campus.

The City of Lawrence and the University of Kansas will review proposals from various electric scooter companies to contract with the city for a shared e-scooter pilot program, Director of Transportation Services Donna Hultine said. 

The proposals will be reviewed some time between Feb. 1 and Feb. 15. Though it will ultimately be the city’s contract, the University will allow e-scooters on campus through a Memorandum of Understanding with the city, Hultine said. 

“Anything that offers another mode of transportation is a good thing,” Hultine said. “I think that the bicycles are a little bit of a challenge because of hills, so I think scooters could help address that.”

The Lawrence City Commission approved a recommendation to consider authorizing staff to issue a Request for Qualifications for a shared e-scooter pilot program at its meeting on Dec. 17, 2019. 

The passed recommendation proposes a pilot program start date of April 1 and end date of Oct. 1. The city staff anticipates selecting up to two vendors for a pilot program to provide 500 scooters, according to the document

Adding e-scooters to campus was one of Crimson+Blue’s platforms during the 2019 Student Senate Elections. Senate Chief of Staff Zach Thomason said coalition members spoke at city commission meetings to advocate for the measure. 

“As a short distance fix, e-scooters can absolutely provide a benefit to students, and they’re obviously not super high cost,” Thomason said. “There are students who can’t afford an automobile, and they won’t be able to while they’re in college. But, if they’re trying to get down to [Massachusetts] Street and they don’t want to wait for a bus, hopping on an e-scooter is only a few minute ride, and that can be an acceptable solution for them.” 

VeoRide, which the city currently has a right of way agreement with, provides bikes for University students. The city’s decision to review a request for qualifications (RFQ) submittal was driven by VeoRide’s request to renegotiate its right of way agreement with the city to provide e-scooters in April 2019, said Porter Arneill, the director of communications and creative resources for the City of Lawrence, in an email to the Kansan. 

“The city recognizes the popularity of shared scooters,” Arneill said. “With this RFQ and pilot program, the city intends to better understand these types [of] e-scooter programs and, if feasible, how best to implement them.” 

The city’s Multi-Modal Transportation Commission created a Micromobility Subcommittee to study electric vehicles. According to the agenda document, the subcommittee narrowed its focus to e-scooters and found pros, including reduced congestion parking demand, as well as cons, such as public safety and enforcement challenges. 

City staff used input from the subcommittee to outline requirements and expectations in their request for qualifications. 

Hultine said Bird — an e-scooter rental service — brought an e-scooter to the University for students to demo during former Student Body President Noah Ries’ administration. Despite the demo, Hultine said there was no demand for the e-scooters until the Crimson+Blue coalition took office. 

“At the time, there was not really any push for it,” Hultine said. “And then I learned that this current governance, that was a part of their platform. I knew that the city was already looking to engage a contract, so I thought no matter what, we would tag along to that contract.” 

Hutline said the University will likely develop a scooter policy in conjunction with the KU Public Safety Office to determine where the scooters can operate and what speed they can operate at. 

In addition, the city staff will likely present an ordinance to the City Commission to define the local laws for e-scooter use for the pilot program, according to the agenda document. 

At the conclusion of the six-month pilot program, the city will determine whether e-scooters will stay in Lawrence through public engagement and program evaluation. 

— Edited by Page Cramer

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