A new electronic scooter and bike brand will replace Bird and Lime scooters and Crimson Cruisers at OU in the coming months.
The university is in the process of constructing a new contract with an unannounced company to create exclusive OU-brand e-scooters and e-bikes to be used on campus by the spring 2020 semester, said Kris Glenn, director of transportation and parking.
Glenn said they are unsure of how companies such as Bird and Lime will be affected by the change until the contract is finalized.
Crimson Cruisers will be replaced with e-bikes, a pedal-assisted bicycle that cost $1 to unlock and an undecided amount per minute of the ride.
“We decided that, as a university, we wanted to have scooters on campus,” Glenn said. “They’re obviously very popular with students, we just wanted to make sure we had an exclusive vendor that would follow our rules, share revenue with the university and that it was the lowest cost possible for students.”
Over 71 percent of students use Bird and Lime scooters instead of Crimson Cruisers because they are more accessible, according to data compiled from an OU Daily Twitter poll with 53 student participants.
“I always see people on scooters. It’s almost easier than having your own bike because you can leave it wherever you want to, and it doesn’t matter unless you’re a charger — then you have to find them,” said Kourtney Daugherty, film and media studies senior and Bird charger.
Students said it’s difficult to find where Crimson Cruisers are located and that the Social Bicycles app used to unlock the bikes is difficult to navigate, according to findings from the OU Daily poll.
The Crimson Cruisers can only be found in certain hubs around campus, where scooters are available almost everywhere and can be located via their respective apps.
For Casey Shaw, a regular Crimson Cruiser rider and political science and environmental sustainability senior, getting rid of the Crimson Cruisers is not a welcome change.
“The argument for Crimson Cruisers over scooters would mainly rely on their lower cost,” said Shaw. “It's a lot more financially responsible to ride a bike for free than to ride a scooter for as much as $7 or $8, depending on the length of the ride.”
What many students don’t know is that for the first hour of usage, Crimson Cruisers are free. Riders are charged $5 per minute if they exceed this hour and $50 if they park bikes in an undesignated spot.
Even though the Crimson Cruisers will no longer be available, the new contract will still provide biking options for students. The bikes replacing the Crimson Cruisers will be pedal-assisted, meaning motorized bikes will make it easier to pedal to class.
The new university-based scooter system could also change the game for e-scooter chargers.
For Daughtery, mornings start early. After parking next to Catlett Music Center, Daugherty uses her two-hour break between classes to gather scooters to charge.
“If I have time to kill, I’ll just go get a Bird,” Daugherty said.
Daugherty is a charger for Bird to pay for small expenses, such as her morning coffee. Daugherty said charging a scooter pays anywhere from $3 to $5 based on the scooter’s location.
“I’m in 21 hours this semester, and I don’t want to have a job right now,” Daugherty said. “It’s easy because I can do it whenever I want to. I’ve had a few months off, and they don’t care.”
Glenn said the contract will be responsible for hiring people to charge and maintain the bikes.
“It won’t just be anyone random who charges it,” Glenn said. “They will ... have to be employees of that company, and they will make sure the scooters are charged, they are distributed on campus evenly and they are parked in the correct places.”
Gotcha, an electric transportation company and current bike provider for Crimson Cruisers, is now ending its two-year contract with the university. The contract, sourced by the OU Student Government Association, placed Crimson Cruisers on campus and kept costs down for students.
Glenn said the university paid an estimated $100,000 on Crimson Cruisers. Gotcha no longer offers that business model and is instead switching to a model in which students pay for their ride.
“That model just doesn’t work anymore,” Glenn said.
Glenn said the new contracted scooters and bikes will have parking locations similar to those currently in place for Crimson Cruisers.
“We don’t want scooters just strewn all over campus in doorways, laying sideways in the grass,” Glenn said. “We want to create either virtual hubs or paint graphics on the ground … making it much more organized.”
Glenn said this new parking method will be convenient for students while also providing more organization than Bird or Lime scooters offer. By offering these new scooters and bikes, Glenn said OU Parking and Transportation hopes to provide more accessible transportation to students.
With the new contract, OU Parking and Transportation plans to put revenue earned from the scooters and bikes back into the university.
“I think what we are hoping for this partnership is that they share revenue with the university, and that revenue would go back into infrastructure for bike lanes, bike and scooter parking ... creating more sustainable forms of transportation,” Glenn said.