WINCHESTER - Earlier this month, Town Manager Lisa Wong discussed the idea of partnering with E-scooter company Spin to bring electronic scooters into town. On Monday night, the Select Board heard from Spin’s partnership manager Ashley Brown about the company, the scooters and how the town and company could work together.
E-scooters can only be used by those 18 and older with a valid license. It costs $1 to “unlock” the E-scooter and the cost for a ride could be between 10 and 15 cents per minute. An alarm will sound if someone attempts to use or move the E-scooter without first unlocking it.
Wong noted on June 20 she and other town officials had a meeting with Spin where they were able to test drive the E-scooters. They also went over a potential agreement between the two sides that Town Counsel reviewed. Wong said there were no issues, but that amendments could be made.
The company was acquired by Ford Motor Company last year, Brown noted. They are already in 47 markets (communities and campuses) and are looking to reach 100 by the end of the year.
The E-scooters have a 15 mile range before needing to be recharged and a GPS monitoring system that allows the company and town to track where the E-scooters are most being used. They also come with an anti-lock braking system, an LED headlight that’s always on, a rear-red reflector, and puncture proof tires. They top out at a maximum speed of 15 MPH.
Brown said that while some E-scooter companies will come into a community and drop their product off unannounced, Spin never launches without permission. Another plus concerns the company’s policy to hire 30-hour per week benefitted employees.
Brown said Spin is “committed to sharing our data with partners,” but they also “strongly safeguard (their) data.” She also noted the company would start small, only bringing in, say, 50 E-scooters to Winchester to test the market and see how people respond.
In Massachusetts, Brown said Spin just started a pilot program with Salem and currently operates in Brookline. The company covers 100 percent of equipment, marketing and operational costs.
Brown did admit parking the E-scooters can be a challenge, so the company created a virtual coral that forces riders to park in a designated area. The company also has an app that allows users to rate the parking job of the person who used the E-scooter before them. A bad parking job gets the user a strike. Three strikes and the user’s account is suspended.
Brown stressed the company hires local residents, veterans and those formerly incarcerated.
Before users can ride one of the E-scooters, they must first watch a safety video that encourages helmet use, staying off the sidewalk and using bike lanes if possible. The company partners with overade to provide foldable helmets at a discount.
Because every user is different, Spin offers an option for those without smartphones, those who’d rather pay in cash and low-income riders.
Brown said the company wants to invest in Winchester long-term.
When asked by Select Board member Susan Verdicchio if the E-scooters are year-round, Brown said because of the weather in New England they remove them during the winter. Verdicchio also asked if the official launch includes training and Brown noted some towns have paired the launch with a town event that would include demo rides.
Chair Mariano Goluboff suggested unveiling the E-scooters on a Saturday during the farmers market.
One issue with the E-scooters involves parents creating accounts for their underage children. If Spin discovers that, they will suspend the account.
Select Board member Michael Bettencourt asked about the availability of the data to the town and Brown said it can be available quarterly or monthly. The data can include the number of rides, where rides start and end and the length of the ride.
Bettencourt also asked about revenue sharing and Brown acknowledged the company does offer revenue sharing. She didn’t get into any specific details, however.
If an agreement between the town and Spin is eventually reached, the E-scooters could help remove some cars from the roadway. They could also free up parking spaces in commuter lots, as residents could take them to either the Wedgemere or Winchester Center commuter rail stations.
Jim Whitehead, chair of the Traffic and Transportation Advisory Committee, asked the board to take a slower approach. He worried users would ride the E-scooters on the sidewalks.
“You’re jumping in too soon,” he argued. “Address infrastructure problems first.”
He also wondered about the economic viability of the E-scooters in a smaller town like Winchester. Although Whitehead said TTAC wants to get cars off the road, he wondered how viable E-scooters would be in a town one-third the size of Brookline.
Moving forward, Wong said the town would continue negotiations with Spin and potentially bring an agreement forward in August. She also suggested creating a bike/scooter committee to focus on bike and scooter safety, especially as it pertains to the Tri-Community Greenway.
Wong added, concerning safety, the E-scooters won’t be used at night. Brown said the town controls the hours of operation.
“I’m confident we’ll have a good working relationship and in the flexibility of Spin,” Bettencourt said.
Because of the distance users can travel, it’s possible to ride the E-scooter into another community that doesn’t have an agreement with Spin. However, riders won’t be able to initiate another ride outside of Winchester. Spin will have to come collect any E-scooter parked outside the town and return it to Winchester.
Brown said the company would respond quickly in that situation.