Salisbury looks to replace bicycle program provider

Spin, the San Francisco-based company that has provided popular, bright orange bicycles for short jaunts around Salisbury since February, is replacing the bikes with motorized scooters — but neither the city nor Salisbury University has agreed to switch.

SU officials are waiting to hear if the bikes will be collected and take off campus, and how extended membership payments will be refunded.

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day today said Thursday, however, that Spin won’t remove bikes from city streets because “we have control of them.”

“Their app will continue to function because their service is continuing. So, no change for service for now until we have the new provider in,” Day said.

“We cannot estimate how popular motorized scooter share will be in Salisbury so, at this time, our focus is on selecting a new bike share company,” Day said.

Bike share has proven to be wildly popular in Salisbury with over 15,000 rides, 6,000 unique riders and 16,000 miles ridden in the less than five months of operations.

In a statement released by the city late Thursday, Spin shared that “Salisbury is a very successful market by our metrics” and they recommended new companies who will continue to operate bike share.

“The announcement was made suddenly, with no prior indication from Spin that they were considering moving their company in this new direction,” Day said.

“Spin bikes in Salisbury continue to work, and they will remain in service until Spin decides to stop supporting the mobile app. There has been no indication on their part that they intend to shut down the app, but it is a possibility which will be out of our control if it does happen,” he said.

“Given the unexpected nature of this shift in service from this company, we ask for patience with the company and with the City and University as we work to bring in a new company,” Day said.

In a less optimistic announcement, Wayne Shelton, Director of Sustainability & Environmental Safety at SU, said Spin is retiring the program, stopped operations nationally this week, and warned the bike app might stop functioning at any time.

Officially, he said, Spin ceased operation July 16, although he saw a rider as recently as Wednesday.

Day said motorized scooters could be a problem on Salisbury’s streets and the city and university will pursue other companies.

“They are switching to only motorized scooters, which we are not sure we will allow. We are bringing in a new operator. We have proposals from two companies. We’ll know which we are using shortly,” Day said on Thursday.

Spin is a private, for-profit company that has recently expanded to cities across the nation.

The city and SU have “proven the viability and success of a bike share program in the Salisbury area,” he continued.

“With over 15,000 rides in five months, and an entirely private business model, bike share will stay and thrive in Salisbury.

“Bike share companies’ shift to motorized scooters, chasing venture capital, is interesting but doesn’t focus on the desire and needs of those seeking better transport options. Now that we are being courted by multiple bike share vendors, we look forward to a new bike share company arriving in Salisbury and continuing its success,” Day said.

Shelton said Spin representatives contacted the university about rolling scooters on to campus, but there is skepticism.

“We are generally cautious about the whole idea of inviting scooters on campus. I am waiting on the final say from higher administration, who are on vacation. We are reluctant to have scooters at least at this time. In my way thinking, it’s unlikely but it is not fully up to me,” Shelton told the Salisbury Independent.

Because the scooters are not solar powered, they would have to be collected, taken off campus and charged.

“Their model involved people coming on campus, picking them up and charging them. They are not intended to be charged at this location. The university wouldn’t be responsible for it. So, we would have a lot of people traversing the campus,” he said.

Also, students who ride skateboards across campus often attempt stunts and scooters might lend themselves to that temptation, Shelton said.

“We are thinking about the whole situation and how scooters could be misused,” Shelton said.

On the SU campus, where there were 100 Spin bikes, there were 3,600 trips from May 1 to June 1, Shelton said.

The average distance traveled was .67 miles and the average trip time was 186 seconds.

Shelton said SU received no financial benefit from the program.

In the city, there were 15,596 rides and more than 17,000 miles traveled as of June 30, Day said. On average, there were 120 rides per day.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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