Commuters in several cities in Oklahoma have new options for getting around town. Bicycle and electric scooter sharing programs are popping up in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman and Stillwater. Some, like Oklahoma City’s Spokies, are public programs. Others, like Bird, are private companies.
Journal Record senior reporter Sarah Terry-Cobo spoke with KGOU’s Jacob McCleland.
Jacob McCleland: You're listening to the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I'm Jacob McCleland. I'm talking with Sarah Terry-Cobo. She's the senior reporter at The Journal Record newspaper. Hey Sarah. Thank you for joining us.
Sarah Terry-Cobo: Great to be here Jacob. Thank you for having me.
McCleland: Now I want to talk about a story that Brian Bruce wrote in The Journal Record. It's about the proliferation of micro-transit options in Oklahoma City. Stillwater norming and other places. First what do we mean by micro-transit?
Terry-Cobo: Well just think smaller than an automobile. Bikes scooters really like little electric motorized scooters.
McCleland: So Oklahoma City has a couple of different micro-transit options right now. There's Spokies, which is a public, city-launched bicycle sharing program. And now we have Bird, which is a company that brings sharable electric scooters in communities often without going through the regular regulatory process. Is Oklahoma City big enough for both of these programs?
Terry-Cobo: I suppose it depends on whom you ask. And the private scooter companies like Bird and Lime certainly think so. And right now OKC officials say there is room for both options to coexist but they really want Bird to follow city ordinances. And Bird company representatives of course didn't get a permit to first park those little scooters on a public right of way like a sidewalk.
McCleland: You know that really seems to kind of be a common theme with a Bird. They drop into a town without getting approval first. In addition to Bird scooters in Oklahoma City and Norman there's also now, they're also now in Stillwater. What was the reaction of officials in Stillwater?
Terry-Cobo: Well, Mayor Will Joyce seemed less than pleased when he tweeted about it. He mentioned that, he mentioned that in his tweet he is skeptical that the company's disruptive business model could work and be in line with Stillwater's ordinances. So City Council will be looking at that this week.
McCleland: What about in Tulsa? What micro-transit programs are available there?
Terry-Cobo: So Tulsa has a bikeshare program, a bit similar to Spokies in OKC, but this one is a private group funded by a few partners. It is called This Machine, alluding to that phrase that, you know, folk musician Woody Guthrie had on his guitar, "This machine kills fascists." I got to see the bikes this weekend. They're pretty cool actually. They have their own little locks built right into the frame and there's 25 of them. They are downtown and along Route 66 or 11th street in town all the way to University of Tulsa campus. Just scan your card on a card reader on top and it unlocks.
McCleland: So overall what you transportation officials think are the benefits of these these types of micro-transit programs?
Terry-Cobo: Well big picture, people like the idea of more options aside from cars and trucks but just one person in them. So it's nice for short trips and can help avoid some of the congestion in those highly trafficked areas. And you've got health organizations and clean air groups sponsoring these bikes in Tulsa to encourage people to think a little bit differently about mobility.
McCleland: Is this an industry where we can expect to see growth in the future?
Terry-Cobo: Yes, absolutely. OKC officials say they have already heard from two other micro-transit companies who want to enter the area but they're talking to city staff first.
McCleland: Sarah Terry-Cobo is the Journal Record's senior reporter. Sarah, thank you for your time.
Terry-Cobo: Absolutely. It's my pleasure.
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