Electric-assist bikes and (even more) e-scooters returning to Cedar Rapids in the spring

An electric scooter near NewBo City Market, Sept. 5, 2019. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

Electric-assist bikes and electric scooters will return to Cedar Rapids this spring, city officials said at Tuesday’s Cedar Rapids City Council meeting.

The number of scooters will increase from 30 to 80, and the full fleet of 150 bikes will be brought back in the spring once weather allows, likely in late March or early April. Officials also shared potential plans to add an adaptive bike.

The city launched the bike-share program in May 2019 with 50 bikes and introduced the full fleet of 150 bikes in June. Shortly after that, the pilot scooter program was launched in August 2019.

The program closed for the season in November, and the bikes and scooters were picked up by VeoRide, the micromobility company in charge of operating and managing Cedar Rapids’ bike- and scooter-share program. The city doesn’t pay a fee to VeoRide for the program, which earns its money through the rental fees for its bikes and scooters.

“In terms of the results we’ve seen in the first season, we’ve had really great ridership,” city planner Sylvia Brueckert said at the council’s Feb. 11 meeting. “We had a total of just over 30,000 rides.”

Around 12,000 of those rides were on the scooters, which have been “incredibly popular,” Brueckert said. The rest of the rides, nearly 18,000, were on the bikes.

Brueckert also pointed out the ride times for both bikes and scooters were higher than what VeoRide has seen in their other locations. The average ride time in Cedar Rapids was nearly 13 minutes for bikes and 15 minutes for scooters. In other cities and towns, Brueckert said the average ride time is slightly less than 10 minutes.

“It’s an amenity for residents, employees and visitors,” Bill Micheel, the city’s assistant community development director, said about the bike- and scooter-share program.

“The bike culture in Cedar Rapids has exploded over the past five, 10 years. This [program] adds to that and gets people involved that might not otherwise be. … The other thing we’re noticing is that it’s bringing people back that haven’t ridden a bike in a while, particularly because of the e-bikes, and we’ve been seeing that throughout this first season.”

Micheel added that some people who take the bus used the bikes and scooters to bridge the gap between the last bus stop and their final destination. He also mentioned that some Mount Mercy University student athletes have been using the bikes and scooters to get from the main campus to their athletic facilities.

Map of bike share stations across Cedar Rapids. Scooters can be found in NewBo, Czech Village, downtown, Coe College and Mount Mercy University. Riders can also use the VeoRide app to find the nearest bike or scooter. — courtesy of the City of Cedar Rapids.

The program is also facing some challenges.

Brueckert said one of the main complaints the city has received is people riding the bikes and scooters on the sidewalks, which creates issues for pedestrians and is also illegal.

City Councilmember Scott Overland asked if there have been any issues with riders running into pedestrians. The concern surrounding the safety of e-scooters has been brought up in other cities, such as Austin, Nashville and Atlanta.

“Thus far we’ve not had any serious issues. We’ve not heard about any serious incidents where someone has gotten injured,” Micheel said.

Other concerns mentioned at the meeting included bike and scooter clutter when riders don’t park in the designated areas and availability of the bikes and scooters.

The city has plans to mitigate these problems in the upcoming season.

Brueckert mentioned that VeoRide has added a pop-up message in the app used to unlock bikes and scooters to remind users about using the bike lanes and where they should leave their vehicle so it doesn’t block the sidewalk.

Other plans include continuing to spread the word about the rules through new signage, additional educational videos and enforcement.

City officials outlined the issues they’ve seen with the electric-assist bikes and e-scooters, as well as plans to mitigate these concerns moving forward during the Feb. 11 Cedar Rapids City Council meeting. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

Another issue that’s on the city’s radar is improving accessibility.

“We have been working with VeoRide on options for adding an adaptive bike program to the system,” Brueckert said. “In the spring, that’s something we’re really prioritizing, and we’re working with VeoRide on the details on this. But we plan to add an adaptive bike — or hopefully bikes — to the fleet in spring.”

Details, such as the number and types of adaptive bikes, are still being worked out with VeoRide. But Brueckert mentioned in an email that the types of adaptive bikes may include a tricycle or a handcycle.

“This program would likely work differently than the e-bikes or scooters in that any adaptive [bike] would probably be kept at a city facility and be available for check-out on demand,” Brueckert said.

To rent a bike or scooter in Cedar Rapids once they’ve returned, users download the free VeoRide app. After creating an account, a user scans the QR code and starts the ride.

The bikes and scooters cost $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute to use. The $1 unlock fee is waived for individuals using local, state or federal assistance programs through VeoRide Access.

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