Politics & Government

Electric scooters are here, Wichita, for you to rent

Taking Wichita’s new scooters out for a test ride

Dozens of new electric scooters were deployed in downtown Wichita on Monday morning. Wichita Eagle reporter Dion Lefler took one out for a test ride.
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Dozens of new electric scooters were deployed in downtown Wichita on Monday morning. Wichita Eagle reporter Dion Lefler took one out for a test ride.

The company that put the bikes in Bike Share ICT became the first company to deploy electric rental scooters on Wichita streets Monday.

It’s only the beginning.

Zagster, based in Boston, is starting with 500 scooters in Wichita.

That’ll be followed with another 500 in a couple weeks by the Chicago company VeoRide, which does the bike rentals at the University of Kansas, K-State and Pittsburg State.

And Slidr, based in Naples, Fla., has obtained city permission for another 150.

“I have to share that we are wheely excited to welcome these scooters to Wichita,” Mayor Jeff Longwell said Monday at Second and Main, just south of City Hall. “We are rolling along with some improvements to our city to make Wichita a destination city.”

Zagster’s scooters say “Spin” on them and you use a Spin app to rent them. They will be operated, recharged and maintained by Zagster, the company that provides the bikes and runs Bike Share ICT.

Many of the scooters will be staged at locations already being used for Bike Share’s racks, said Karl Alexander, a marketing manager for Zagster.

Two of the first scooter users were Paige Haight and Sara Lara, friends and co-workers in the training department at Westar Energy in the Ruffin Building downtown.

They scooted up to Old Town Square “just to get a break from the office,” said Haight. “And to get some fresh air,” added Lara.

“We’ve been waiting for these for a long time,” said Haight.

They both agreed the scooters are “just fast enough to be scary” but were getting a handle on how to ride them. Lara said she was regretting wearing sandals instead of sneakers.

And neither had a helmet, though it’s strongly recommended.

“They said it was optional,” Haight said.

The mayor and police emphasized that scooters are motor vehicles and you can get a ticket if you break traffic laws. The scooters aren’t allowed on sidewalks but can be ridden in bike lanes and any street with a speed limit of 35 mph or less.

All three e-scooter operating companies use a phone app to control the rental process. Their rental charges will be the same: $1 to start a ride and 15 cents a minute after that.

Companies that want to rent out scooters in Wichita will have to pay for the privilege through an administration fee of $500 to $1,000 and 15 cents for each ride rented.

The money will go to a city fund to establish and maintain bike paths, officials said.

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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.