WINCHESTER - With so many communities going “green” nowadays, Winchester Town Manager Lisa Wong looked into partnering with an electronic scooter company called Skinny Labs Inc. dba Spin.
There are several E-scooter companies in the area including Lime and Bird, but Wong said that Spin rated the highest of the three companies. It’s owned by Ford Motor Company, which the Town Manager admitted could be a good or bad thing, adding that at least it’s probably well-funded and won’t go out of business.
Another positive concerns the company’s hiring of 30-hour per week benefited staff that can deal with drop-off, pick-up and maintenance.
Wong told the Select Board she has met with representatives from Spin on several occasions and she also shared a typical user share agreement that other communities have signed. The board could enter into a similar type agreement (perhaps with a few modifications) if they decide an E-scooter is right for Winchester.
As the board doesn’t meet again until Monday, July 29, they could potentially ratify a contract with the company then, which would be followed by a three-month pilot program to begin in September. That could then be followed by an even bigger launch next spring.
Wong noted how some communities created a formal request that was answered by several companies, and those communities use several different E-scooter brands. The Town Manager, however, personally reached out to Spin, and the agreement states an exclusivity clause whereby the company would be the only one to provide “Scooter Share Services” within town limits.
The town could alter the agreement to allow for another company to come in.
Select Board member Michael Bettencourt noted how the company uses real-time data to track how the E-scooters are being used and by whom. Wong added the GPS system allows the town to implement a “no go” zone, i.e. places in town the E-scooters wouldn’t be allowed to travel and also change speed limits for different parts of town.
Town Counsel hasn’t reviewed the agreement yet.
The E-scooters could be permanently docked by the train station.
Jim Whitehead, chairman of the Traffic and Transportation Advisory Committee, expressed interest in the program, stating his committee’s desire to remove cars from the roadway. He did have some concerns including battery life and how it would work with credit cards (if you pay for multiple uses, the credit card company might reject it thinking it’s a duplicate charge).
Whitehead also suggested limiting the agreement to three months with an ability to renew it.
When asked by Select Board member Jacqueline Welch if these could cause more traffic problems, Whitehead didn’t have a specific answer, but acknowledged he’d rather see them on the road than on the sidewalk.
“We’ll have to find out,” he said about potential traffic issues, adding how roads are narrow downtown (a section of town where it would make sense for most people to use the E-scooters).
Select Board member Susan Verdicchio asked about using the E-scooters on the greenway that connects Winchester, Woburn and Stoneham and chairman Mariano Goluboff said that’s what the greenway is for: a shared path for bikes, scooters, etc.
It should be noted, there have been some issues in other parts of the country. Wong said that in Austin, Texas 1 in 3 people were injured the first time they attempted to ride one. She said in Portland, Oregon, accidents were 22 times more likely with an E-scooter than a car.