The ever-visible Spin scooters, which have become fixtures littering the sidewalks and walkways of Athens and Ohio University, will not be returning to the area in the spring due to termination of the company’s partnership with the city.
Spin scooters launched on OU’s campus in the spring of 2020, offering rides to students and local residents for a $1 fee per ride and $0.29 charge per minute. Some students found the scooters a fun and accessible way to travel in the area.
“I thought they were really fun,” Evie Henderson, a junior studying psychology pre-med, said. “They’re just kind of nice to be able to go around to class and stuff or if you're in a hurry.”
Dylan DeMonte, a sophomore studying political science, said he frequently spotted students using the scooters during warm weather. However, DeMonte thinks students can find other modes of transportation, like bikes, to use in the absence of the scooters.
Though the scooters will no longer be an option for local transportation, OU Director of VPFA Auxiliary Services Tia Hysell said university students and workers can still travel for free via other modes of transportation, including CATCAB, daily campus shuttles and Athens Public Transit.
“While we are disappointed that the e-scooters won’t be a micro-mobility option this spring, we continue to offer a variety of ways for students, faculty and staff to get around campus and the surrounding Athens community if they’d rather not walk,” Hysell said in a university news release.
According to an announcement on the company’s website, Spin is restructuring its global business model and exiting nearly all open-permit markets, including Athens. The decision was informed by the uncertainty of the “free-for-all” market, characterized by no fleet caps, frequent competitive changes and low pricing sacrificing quality.
Moving forward, the company plans to prioritize profitable growth and focus on operational standards in sole vendor or limited vendor markets, Spin Spokesperson Sara Dodrill said. Operations will begin to dwindle in countries such as Spain and Portugal as early as February 2022.
“By gaining the regulatory certainty that cities provide us via limited vendor permits, Spin will be able to continue investing in the infrastructure, technological, and operational innovations needed to make high quality shared micro-mobility services a permanent part of the transportation ecosystem,” Ben Bear, CEO of Spin, said in the announcement.
The decision will affect Spin employees, with an estimated 25% impacted by the shift. The company is attempting to mitigate the impact by offering severance packages, additional stipends for outplacement services and allowing employees to keep their company-issued laptops.
In recent years, micro-mobility, such as e-scooters, has increased in popularity as an efficient and eco-friendly way to travel short distances. Typically found in larger cities and on college campuses, it operates via virtual payment and charges a by-the-minute rate for use.
However, the university still offers a shared mobility program that encourages city-licensed vendors interested in operating on-campus to apply for a partnership.
The city plans to prioritize alternative transportation going forward.
“The City of Athens will continue to evaluate the best ways to create and promote alternative modes of transportation throughout the City, including e-scooters and shared bike programs,” Athens Service Safety Director Andy Stone said in a news release.