With the return of students to the Texas A&M University campus also comes a new bike-share company.
Ofo's bright yellow bikes have mostly been removed from campus and the wider community, and taking their place for the spring semester are turquoise models from Texas A&M's new bike-share vendor, VeoRide. The company has its license to operate in College Station, and many of its bikes are already on campus.
Texas A&M University Transportation Services says about 800 more should be arriving early this week. VeoRide has committed to providing 2,400 bikes through the program, which will be A&M's second bid at rolling out a major bike-share initiative on campus.
Its program with Chinese bike-share company Ofo, which launched last March, ended with the city of College Station revoking the company's license to operate twice and A&M cutting ties with the company. The program was popular with users, but the city first revoked Ofo's license in mid-October after the company let its auto liability insurance coverage lapse, which kept its employees from accessing the vans they used to collect and relocate bikes around town. The university announced in late November that it was ending its partnership with the company, and Ofo's license was revoked again in December after failing to replenish its escrow account.
While VeoRide, a micro-mobility share company based in West Lafayette, Indiana, and Chicago, is similar to the previous provider, Texas A&M University Transportation Services says it offers enhancements that will help customers with compliance.
One of those features is a prompt within the mobile app used to access the bikes that aims to prevent users from ending rides outside the geo-fenced service area. According to VeoRide's user agreement, users who are unable to return a bike to a valid service area can request that it be picked up by VeoRide staff. The company can charge those users a pick-up fee of $120 at its discretion. But users are responsible for all trip fees and the $120 recovery fee if they abandon a bike without notice, the agreement says.
Staff have been hired to move the bikes around campus and recover them from throughout the community, according to Texas A&M University Transportation Services.
Like with Ofo, VeoRide has a geofenced service area that includes the Texas A&M campus and adjacent businesses and housing. The program works by allowing users to locate a bike through the app and pay to ride it for a few minutes, a few hours or through daily, monthly or annual passes.
VeoRide bikes are meant to be parked in or next to bike racks or in parking areas designated on the app. Riders lock the bikes to end a trip, signaling the app to stop charging.
As bike-sharing grew in popularity in College Station, and by extension, in Bryan, so did sightings of abandoned bikes. The yellow bikes could often be seen parked outside the approved geofence, stashed in trees and dumped on sidewalks. College Station's bike-share ordinance, which went into effect in mid-August, gives the city control over the geofence and sets a relocation fee for improperly parked bikes a company doesn't move. Code enforcement officers can also give citations to a company as needed.
With VeoRide, community members are encouraged to report any issues directly to Transportation Services by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about the program can be found at transport.tamu.edu/alternative/bicycles/bikeshare.aspx.