Norman's newest e-scooter is rolling into town, and this one seems to be here to stay.
Beginning Jan. 13, OU's official scooter and bike partner VeoRide launches a one-year contract in Norman, and it will be the exclusive e-scooter company allowed to operate on the Norman campus, said Kris Glenn, director of OU Parking and Transportation Services.
The Chicago-based company is the fifth company to release scooters in town since Bird scooters launched in August 2018 — which no longer operates in Norman according to its app — followed by Lime; Gotcha, also no longer operational in Norman, according to its app; and Slidr, which launched on campus at the end of last semester.
While VeoRide’s contract with the university is for one year, VeoRide regional manager Spencer Dickerson said in an email that all parties expect it to be a long-term partnership.
The exclusive partnership brings 200 e-scooters and 50 pedal bikes to campus. The bikes are available to all students, staff and faculty for free unlimited use by registering on the VeoRide app, while the e-scooters cost $1 to unlock and 15 cents a minute — the most affordable e-scooter on the market, Glenn said.
In order to register for free pedal bike access, students, staff and faculty must register for the VeoRide app, available from the Apple App Store and Google Play, with an ou.edu email address. After registering, in the app's wallet click on "membership" and "accept the free membership," according to a press release.
For those without an ou.edu email address, use of pedal bikes cost 7 cents per minute.
With the new partnership, Crimson Cruisers will no longer be available on campus and were collected at the end of December 2019, said Kesha Keith, director of media relations, in an email.
VeoRide is permitted to operate throughout campus and in Norman, as the company received the proper permit from the city of Norman. From Boyd Street to the research campus at South Jenkins Avenue and Gt Blankenship Boulevard, VeoRide will be the only scooter allowed to operate, Glenn said.
In fall 2019, the university launched a competitive bid process to bring a then-undecided exclusive scooter and bike company to campus and Norman for students' use, Keith said.
The bid process lasted six weeks, and the final decision was decided by a team of university employees from parking services, risk management, OUPD and student affairs, Glenn said.
"VeoRide was chosen through that process because of its low cost to students, revenue sharing with the university and more robust, safer scooters," Keith said.
Around the same time, Sooner Sports Properties partnered with Slidr scooters to bring the OU-branded scooters to campus. While Slidr partnered with athletics, Glenn said VeoRide is the official partnership of the university, and Slidr is no longer allowed to operate on campus. Glenn said Sooner Sports Properties and the university were aware of each other's plans to bring different scooters to campus.
The VeoRide scooters have a lower sense of gravity, larger base and 10-inch vacuum tire wheels instead of the seven-inch hard rubber tires like many scooters on the market, as well as front and rear mechanical brakes instead of a decelerator and a step brake, among other safety features, Dickerson said.
“Safety is always a huge concern. It’s the main reason we built a better scooter,” Dickerson said. “According to the CDC, 50 (percent) of scooter accidents were attributed to poor road conditions. By building a scooter that can better handle conditions, we’re building a safer scooter.”
Additionally, VeoRide scooters are the only e-scooter brand with replaceable batteries, so they don't have to be charged, Keith said.
VeoRide's build isn’t the only thing that's different. Instead of hiring contractors to charge its scooters — which often results in scooters being left around town, disrupting walkways — the company hires full-time employees to collect the scooters every evening and rebalance them so they are charged and ready for use the next day before placing them at one of 10 VeoRide hubs, located in place of the former Crimson Cruiser bike hubs, Dickerson said.
While students are using the scooters during the day, the VeoRide app will inform them of nearby temporary parking spots where VeoRide employees will pick them up later in the day, Glenn said.
Two to four VeoRide staff will be present on campus all day Monday through Friday to help maintain the scooters, Dickerson said. The company is currently hiring, and students can apply to be VeoRide employees on VeoRide's website by clicking “careers” in the top right corner.
Correction: This article was updated at 12:40 p.m. to reflect the correct price of the scooters as 15 cents per minute rather than 50 cents per minute.
Update: This article was updated at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 17 to clarify how students, staff and faculty can register for free VeoRide pedal bike access.