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Scooters and Bike Share Both Seeing Bumps in Ridership

Brent Warren Brent Warren Scooters and Bike Share Both Seeing Bumps in RidershipPhoto by Walker Evans.
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More people have been renting CoGo bikes this spring and summer compared to the last two years, a reversal of what had been a downward trend in ridership for the bike share system.

With an average of 5,145 rides per month from March through June of this year, it seems that some people responded to the disruptions to daily life caused by the coronavirus pandemic by taking more bike rides. The average number of rides for the same months in 2018 and 2019 were closer to 4,000.

CoGo bikes remained available to rent even at the beginning of the shutdown, when COTA buses were operating on a drastically reduced schedule and most scooter companies suspended service altogether.

CoGo officials are hopeful that the upward trend can continue, and point to the recent addition of e-bikes to the network and the establishment of a discounted membership program as important new efforts to broaden the appeal of the seven-year-old system.

There is also evidence that people are riding scooters more in the last few months, or at least riding them for longer distances.

Lime brought its scooters back to the Columbus market in April, with other operators following suit soon after.

Crew Cypher, Midwest General Manager for Lime, said that demand has been strong since then, and that people have been taking significantly longer rides on average.

The median duration of Lime scooter trips in Columbus, from January 2019 to June 2020. Chart courtesy of Lime.

“Our transportation form factor has typically been adopted for the five to seven minute trip,” Cypher said in an email, pointing out that trips since April have lasted closer to 15 minutes on average. “Anecdotally, based on feedback from riders, I know many prefer the open air/socially distant travel characteristics that a scooter provides.”

“Columbus ranks as one of the top markets globally in terms of median distance traveled,” he said, adding that the unmet demand for scooters in the market has also been strong, according to the company’s metrics.

One of the ways that Lime measures unmet demand is by seeing how many unique users are opening the app relative to how many scooters are deployed. By that standard, Columbus has performed very well, according to Cypher, which means the company is always eager to operate with its full allotment of 500 scooters on the streets.

“With demand levels experienced (indexed against other cities), we could have been at double that number,” added Cypher.

There were no scooters of any type deployed in Columbus for over a week at the end of June, after the Columbus Division of Police asked for them to be pulled in response to what it described as scooter-throwing incidents at protests Downtown.

Limited service was permitted starting July 1, but full access was not restored until July 8.

Additional Reading: Lots of People are Still Riding Scooters in Columbus

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