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About 10 scooter companies appear to be preparing to bid for a contract to operate dockless electric vehicles in San Antonio.
All six companies operating locally attended an informational meeting June 14 after the City opened bidding for its selection of three companies to provide dockless vehicle services. In addition to Bird, Lime, Razor, Blue Duck Scooters, Lyft, and Spin, four more companies are set to apply.
OjO Electric and Wheels, both based in Southern California; Chicago-based VeoRide; and Austin-based Frog are vying to enter San Antonio scooter-share market. In September, the City Council will approve contracts with three of the bidders. Nine of the 10 companies that attended the City meeting confirmed to the Rivard Report their plans to submit bids. Wheels did not respond by publication time.
One name absent from a sign-in sheet at the June 14 meeting was Uber, whose micro-mobility arm Jump left San Antonio this month, taking thousands of the company’s red electric bikes and scooters out of the market.
“We do not plan to respond to the [City’s solicitation],” Uber spokesman Travis Considine said in a text message. “The recent ordinance change did not impact our decision.”
In addition to moving to a contract-based system with three companies, the City of San Antonio will bar riders from riding scooters on the sidewalk, a practice that has been connected to collisions with pedestrians and injuries. The prohibition takes effect Sunday.
The three companies chosen would operate a combined maximum of 5,000 vehicles. That would reduce the number of scooters available citywide by more than two-thirds of the approximately 16,100 vehicles that previously were granted approval.
Users have logged more than 2 million rides in San Antonio since Bird launched last June with several hundred scooters downtown. Scooter companies have been deploying fewer scooters on average since a high of 6,700 scooters released daily in February, according to City data. The average daily fleet hovered around 4,600 in March and April.
Blue Duck Scooters, a scooter company based at the Pearl, confirmed Monday the company would submit a bid for one of the three City contracts.
Co-founded by Paul and Eric Bell, who are father and son, Blue Duck has played a bit part in the city’s e-scooter scene thus far – at times deploying just dozens of scooters a day. It is permitted for only 100 scooters in San Antonio.
Blue Duck also is permitted to operate in the City of Olmos Park, and Chief Marketing Officer Elizabeth Lyons Houston said the company is working with the City of Alamo Heights to secure the rights to deploy scooters in that municipality. Having agreements with communities within San Antonio is a strategic advantage as the company seeks to win a contract, she said.
“We’ve identified separate and private municipalities within our own cities, and we think that’s really important in the long term,” she said. “All of these [vehicles] are going to cross city limits.”
Houston said Blue Duck would operate the maximum number of scooters allowed if granted a City contract.
“This is our hometown,” she said. “Most of our team lives here and works here. Absolutely, we want to operate as many scooters here.”
Linda Jackson, VeoRide‘s director of communications, said the company is excited to submit a bid in San Antonio.
“We think having three operators is more manageable and will be better for the City,” Jackson said, adding the company was told it would have an opportunity to demonstrate its equipment to a committee that will evaluate the bids.
OjO Electric, whose scooters feature a foam seat and basket, is looking to partner with San Antonio Bike Share, the nonprofit that administers the City’s docked bicycle-share program Swell Cycle in submitting a bid.
San Antonio Bike Share has had conversations with a number of scooter-share companies to collaborate on marketing campaigns, come up with parking solutions, and streamline services, Executive Director JD Simpson said.
“What [a partnership with Ojo] is going to look like, I don’t know yet,” Simpson said. “We don’t have a signed agreement right now. But we have been talking about how we could partner together on it as well as several other scooter companies.
“Until we know who wins, it’s hard to define how that would look like.”
While the bike-share program has 65 parking stations throughout the city, the scooters are dockless but have been deemed a nuisance by many in the community who say they obstruct the right-of-way for pedestrians and people who use wheelchairs.
The City approached Simpson to inquire about using some of the Swell Cycle docking stations for scooters, she said. That would likely involve an agreement with the scooter companies and some form of compensation for using the parking stations.
Simpson said she and the scooter companies she has met with have had productive conversations “throwing wild ideas at the wall” to see what will stick in the coming year for micro-mobility.
“We have an opportunity to grow and expand,” she said. “It just kind of all depends on how all of this shakes out when all is said and done.”