1,000 rental scooters will hit Wichita streets in the next couple of weeks

Rental electric scooters are about to make their debut on Wichita streets in a big way about a week from now

Two companies have applied for city permission to deploy 500 e-scooters each on city streets under a pilot program recently authorized by the City Council.

Of the two companies, one is a familiar name in Wichita. Boston-based Zagster already does business here, providing the bicycles you can rent through Bike Share ICT.

The other company is a newcomer to the Wichita rental mobility market, the Chicago-based VeoRide.

But the company is in Kansas, providing rental bike service at three universities: Kansas, Kansas State and Pittsburg State.

As with the companies’ bikes, scooter rentals will be handled through a mobile phone app.

Both companies’ rate is $1 to start a ride and 15 cents a minute.

Each company will pay the city a $500 annual fee, plus 15 cents for each ride rented.

The contracts for the two companies are on the consent agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting and are expected to pass easily.

Timothy Ericson, the founder and chief business officer at Zagster, said his company is ready to go within a matter of days after the contract is approved, although they’ll miss the 4th of July holiday Thursday.

VeoRide spokeswoman Amy Hesser said the company is excited to move into Wichita and “we’re ready to move as soon as the city is ready.”

The two companies have divergent approaches toward the scooter business.

Zagster has hired about 20 local people and plans to hire about 10 more who will collect, recharge and redeploy scooters that are used each day, Ericson said.

VeoRide scooters have a removable battery, so they can generally be serviced in the field.

Mayor Jeff Longwell said he’s not too concerned about the impact on the city from the scooters.

He said the Wichita City Hall has learned from other cities’ experiences with them and tried to address any potential pitfalls.

“We’re not one of the communities that’s out in front on this,” he said.

Plus, the city is allowing e-scooters as a pilot program and could take corrective action if problems arise, either with all scooters or an individual company.

The scooters can be ridden in bike lanes or on a city street, providing the speed limit is under 40.

In contrast to some cities where scooters operate largely unregulated, Wichita’s rental scooters will have to follow rules including:

Operators will have to be 18 or older to rent a scooter.

The top possible speed of rental scooters will be 15 mph.

Scooters won’t be allowed on any sidewalks, or streets where the speed limit for cars is 40 mph or more.

Scooters will have to automatically shut down at dusk or 9 p.m., whichever comes first.

City staff can immediately impound any scooter that’s blocking traffic or otherwise creating a hazard.

Operating or parking scooters will be prohibited in selected areas.

Privately owned scooters and electric skateboards were exempted from the rules after commuters who use them complained that they wouldn’t be able to operate them in suburban neighborhoods where speed limits are higher than they are downtown.

Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.