Visitors to downtown no doubt noticed a new addition to the streets and sidewalk on Saturday, Dec. 28, as rentable electric scooters made their debut.
Sean Flood, CEO of Gotcha Mobility, said the company rolled out its first scooter fleet in Alabama in Mobile over the weekend in hopes of growing an untapped market along the Gulf Coast.
“I think this region has big growth potential in Alabama, Louisiana and Florida,” he said. “Mobile is the first city in Alabama to launch a scooter program.”
So far, the scooters have been a popular amenity in Downtown Mobile, Flood said, with more than 1,000 people downloading the Gotcha phone app and taking rides.
Gotcha’s only other footprint in Alabama extends to the state’s two major universities in Tuscaloosa and Auburn, but those cities only provide electric, pedal-assist bikes for students. Those relationships in the state and Mobile’s previous experience with the shared mobility market made it a great place to launch the scooters, Flood said.
“Alabama as a state is pretty important to Gotcha,” Flood said of the Charleston, S.C.-based company. “We’ve had a long relationship with Auburn University and The University of Alabama and over the last year it has been great working with Mobile. They have a real openness for shared mobility and have been really progressive about adding multiple products, which works with our vision.”
Each market Gotcha enters into will have a local operations manager and a fleet team responsible for managing the scooters, which are equipped with GPS to help the team locate each one. The GPS and the wheel locks help protect against theft, Flood said. If a scooter is stolen, Gotcha can work with local authorities to locate it using GPS technology.
The Mobile City Council approved a franchise agreement with Gotcha in April and most of the company’s 200 scooters hit downtown this past weekend. Flood said the rest would be added throughout the week.
City spokeswoman Jennifer Zoghby said it costs $1 to unlock a scooter and 20 cents per minute of ride time.
“It’s a great way to avoid traffic and cut down on exhaust emissions from cars,” she said.
The scooters will operate between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. They can reach a top speed of 15 mph and can travel 18 to 20 miles on a single charge, Zoghby said.
A new ordinance requires the city to carry commercial liability insurance up to $1 million per incident, Zoghby said. Gotcha will have a similar policy as well, she said, in case of accidents.
Scooter riders are subject to the same rules applicable to bike riders and must obey traffic laws. For instance, like bicyclists, scooters are not allowed on sidewalks, Zoghby said.
The city has plunged into the shared mobility market previously to mixed results. The city had previously entered into an agreement with Lime (formerly LimeBike) to allow residents and visitors to use the company’s green bicycles. However, Lime left the city in February 2019 after it was told state law prohibited it from bringing electric scooters to Mobile streets. Lime started in Mobile in September 2018, putting the dockless bikes downtown and on the University of South Alabama campus.
The company will also be introducing electric, pedal-assist bicycles to the Mobile market as early as the first quarter of 2020, Flood said, and could also introduce sit-down scooters in the future.
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