(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 309: Docked to Dockless

November 4, 2020
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Below is an AI generated transcript of Talking Headways episode 309.  We will be back to clean it up but wanted to post it for those who are interested in reading or searching for topics.  You can listen to the episode by searching your podcatcher of choice for Talking Headways.

You’re listening to the Talking Headways podcast network. The This is Talking. Headways a weekly podcast about sustainable transportation and urban design. I’m Jeff Wood this week we’re joined by Kyle Rowe Global Head of Government Partnerships at SPIN We chat with Kyle about his work with Seattle DOT transitioning from docked to dockless bike, share the impact of ride hailing on micromobility adoption and the future of his industry Stay with us today’s podcast is brought to you by our super generous Patrion supporters. Thank you infinitely for supporting the show. You can support the show by going to patreon.com/theOverheadWire today’s podcast is also brought to you by the numerous projects of The Overhead Wire our 14 year old daily newsletter, where you can sign up for a two week free trial by going to The Overhead wire.com and our audio book production of Raymon Unwin in 1909 classic Town Planning in Practice pick it up and listen to it as a podcast, by going to The Overhead wire.com or Raymond unwin.com
1m 4s
1

Before we get to it.
1m 4s
Jeff Wood

So this week’s show, I wanted to let folks know that they can get this podcast wherever you find your podcasts, including iHeart radio Spotify overcast Stitcher. And of course Apple podcasts. Make sure you subscribe. So you don’t miss an episode and subscribing means to get both this show Talking Headways and Mondays at The Overhead Wire where this music I’m talking about comes from on the same feed to fund podcasts was a great channel subscriber
1m 24s
Jeff Wood

Today. Kyle Rowe. Welcome to the Talking Headways podcast. Thanks for having me.
1m 36s
Jeff Wood

So before we get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
1m 38s
Kyle Rowe

Yeah, certainly. So again, my name is Kyle Rowe on the Global Head of Government Partnerships at SPIN. So my role, as SPIN as to basically lead SPIN entry into new cities in our team managers, our relationships with city DOT, the government agencies based on all around the world and really what we’re doing and the big picture, his kind of tracking the regulatory framework and trying to push our industry towards a model that works for both industry and the city governments center. And that kind of speaks to how I got into the space, which is a prior to being in a SPIN. I worked at the Seattle DOT for five years working on pretty much all things bikes, but at my last role before joining SPIN was to oversee our bike share program.
2m 22s
Kyle Rowe

And that’s a whole story in itself, then maybe we’ll get into in more detail, but, well, we’ll cut to the end, which is that they basically brought Dockless multi-vendor bike share to Seattle, and it was the first city to do that model to lead the way on that regulatory framework. And, you know, when we were, when we were doing that, the idea that we had that kind of motivation for it was obviously to bring bike, share it back to Seattle, but also to kind of figure out how private mobility players in the city governments can have a more collaborative relationship and try to strive towards shared goals that we have and, and still maintain order, or a lot of the, you, the impact from the Uber and Lyft expansion era were still being felt by the cities.
3m 6s
Kyle Rowe

And so that was the impetus for it. And so since then, Ben trying to expand that to all of the markets we’re in. And yeah, it’s kind of a little bit about how I got here.
3m 16s
Jeff Wood

How did you get to transportation planning generally? Like, was it something that happened when you are a little kid? Was it something that you learned while you are in college or what brought you on that journey?
3m 24s
Kyle Rowe

Yeah. So when I went to, to call it a day, the first two years at the university of Maryland, I grew up in East coast. I’m very much in the suburb somewhere between Philly in New York and as an endless, you know, suburbs after the suburbs and you needed a car to get around it. And that was the only way I knew and went into college with an interest in environmental studies and wanted to figure out what was going on with climate change, what was causing all this uproar and how could I contribute if that’s going to be something that could maybe provide a career opportunity. And I learned pretty quickly that, you know, the curriculum at the time was good about teaching the students, you know, kind of what was going wrong and almost like a doomsday type of curriculum and not so much about how did it quickly turn into like how you can contribute towards improving the system to the various systems that contribute to our climate and issues.
4m 15s
Kyle Rowe

So he was also starting to get interested in cities just generally. So the university of Maryland was on Metro, the red line from D C. So I was able to kind of go into DC and start to see a lot of music. And my sister was living in the city and started to really get interested in what was going on in there. Very new for someone coming in from the suburbs and then came out to the Pacific Northwest for a summer internship. Actually, we were just discussing this prior to the podcast that I was working on Vashon Island, and then came out, cross out the whole country for a summer, without a car, working on an Island that is quite rural with a bike and a bus pass that also got me on the ferry.
4m 56s
Kyle Rowe

I was able to basically experience freedom of movement that I have never experienced, even in the suburbs, when I have my own car in a driver’s license, pretty much the day I could get a driver’s license. So that really like sentence donor was like, wow, this is awesome. This is this incredible freedom. And I was also learning how much transportation was a contributor to, you know, the climate change impacts as we were experiencing. So it kind of just click it also helped that I had a family kind of already charting in this path. So my brother, his at King County, Metro in Seattle, my sister is out of sound transit and Seattle, I used to [email protected] wife has currently at the scale of DOT. So I think it was both like personal interest, but also there’s a lot of families support for her.
5m 36s
Kyle Rowe

I’m getting in the transportation planning. Who is your brother? His name is Daniel Rowe.
5m 41s
Jeff Wood

Oh, I know Daniel. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. He’s been working a lot on parking stuff and those types of things at one
5m 46s
Kyle Rowe

Time who wants to be the next day, I’ll just Donald Shoup.
5m 50s
Jeff Wood

I saw Rowe and I was like, I knew a Rowe nice. Well, that’s really interesting. What’s it like in Seattle right now, though, in terms of like the pandemic and how are you feeling about like what’s going on in the city transportation wise?
6m 4s
Kyle Rowe

Ah, man, the pandemic has been tough. There’s been more than just the pandemic impact in our transportation net where a customer share. So in addition to the pandemic kind of making the BAS a more challenging option for folks in terms of, you know, being near other members of the public and an enclosed space, we also had a, a major bridge. We need to get it closed down, but I’m sure you’ve heard about, we had a bill prior to the pandemic, but certainly starting to be, well, it was starting to be realized the impact of a bill that basically set a limit on our car tab fees, which was a major funding to implement for our transmission funds.
6m 43s
Kyle Rowe

And that thankfully just last week was deemed unconstitutional. And so we can move beyond that. So, so a little bit of a silver lining, but for awhile it was C me. And like there was just an ongoing transportation apocalypse coming to our region. And, you know, I think in addition to what has been continuing challenges and the train on the transit front, there has been also I think a little bit of a less progress on some of the safe streets and, and bite Network build out that, you know, is really important for our region. ’cause, there’s a lot of congestion and there’s a lot of demand for people who are getting in and out of downtown during normal times.
7m 24s
Kyle Rowe

The average BAS from a pretty dense neighborhood to downtown is probably at capacity. I mean, the bus that I could take in the downtown would be standing at the moment and your kind of like a sardine and there’s always room on the bike lane. There is no congestion in the bike lane yet and getting people on two wheels and getting them to try out that mode, whether it be a scooter or a bike is always been known as one of the big opportunities for growth in alternatives to drive in an era or a transit in this area, the build out all the network kind of slowed down a bit and there’s been some, some recent successes, but yeah, I really hope that we can pick that back up again in a really complete some of the key links and the Network.
7m 60s
Jeff Wood

So I want to go back in time a little bit to your time at Seattle DOT and I’m curious, you know, Seattle saw a, a bike share program, you know, disappear, but then come back with a different approach. What were some of the lessons that you took from that process as the metaphorical shepherd? So, sorry, that’s a deep question. Huh?
8m 16s
Kyle Rowe

It’s a deep question. So some wounds are, are still healing it from that area, but no worries. It’s a man. We had Pronto. So we were talking about Pronto as our station based on municipal bike share system is very much like other systems that folks know about, you know, a city bike capital bikeshare or did he operate it by a motivate very similar to these other systems, so much technology, but slightly different, which was annoying because you could actually work with other cities to interchange or the, or bikes there just a subtle differences that yes, I was in part of the procurement process. Originally I was working on getting bike lanes and taking away parking spots at that time. But when we realized that the system wasn’t going to provide a path towards being, you know, financially sustainable, or at least financially sustainable in the way as originally envisioned, we actually tried to replace the entire system where a e-bike fleet So Seattle.
9m 13s
Kyle Rowe

I put out an RFP that selected a company to still under the admissible framework of being a, you know, city owned and subsidized to operate at a completely new network of stations and likes. So all of the stations Wood recharged, the bike’s in the, every single byte would be an e-bike, which for the market. And Seattle, it was really appealing because it was, you know, it’s a quite hilly pretty much any time we are going away from water or you’re going uphill. The public perception of bike share overall was just in such a poor or a spot in advanced of, of a re-election that there is just no political capital will be spent on bike share. And because of that, as well as, you know, just some original design decisions about the system, it was very spread out very few stations.
9m 58s
Kyle Rowe

So that really decreased the use cases, a lot of a user trying to use this system. But the reason for that was to basically bring in more funding partners, more sponsors, and to show that this system could be in a more neighborhoods and they do a good kind of infill of stations because of a few things like that, you know, that lead to the low ridership, which created lower political support for it. We had to basically put it in, in, in our warehouse. We all have the funding for this system was basically taking away and we found ourselves entering the summer of 2017 with no bike share. So I think, you know, lesson’s learned from that the density and the availability of the surface is really key to create demand into is to really get people, to find that as an alternative to wherever their transportation choices are today also, you know, managing and really being really hyper aware of the political climate and perception of micromobility and how that could impact decisions is key.
10m 52s
Kyle Rowe

Whether you’re in a public transit agency, DOT private company as a member of the public and advocacy organizations, and really making sure that are our leaders, our elected just know that this is a priority for us. And, you know, we are working to accomplish goals that the city has stated their trying to reach an always showing that rear, you know, we’re going to approve it. So that was the huge, huge lesson learned. I don’t know, there’s a lot of that. If I, if we were asking that question three years ago, I’d probably have a whole different list of things to respond to, but those are the ones that I think I’ve stuck.
11m 25s
Jeff Wood

And then you went to a Dockless system. What got you to start thinking about that as a way to, to move forward?
11m 31s
Kyle Rowe

So when we got the word funding is going to be cut, it was classic like Friday at 5:00 PM news job from the mayor’s office. Previous, previous administration quickly turned into like, okay, well, how do we decommission? And then it really sets, you know, people start to realize like, Oh wow, we are entering the summer that the Maine, you know, Margaret riding season for market, you know, how I see the bike demand kind of go up and take some of the load off of transit and other modes without any bike share. And saddle is supposed to be the progressive bubble, right? Where just people being on the sort of things at the same way at the time that this was happening, there was also a lot of news coming out of China about a new business model. So for a bike share, OFO Mobike, actually a company called blue go-go, which basically, well, by the time we were getting a new, anywhere near a permit, these companies and making it a lot of headlines, and everyone’s seen the pictures of the piles to the dockless bikes, but also hearing the, you know, the massive radish September is a huge potential behind the scenes kind of newer approach.
12m 33s
Kyle Rowe

The director at the time was Scott Cooley. And he was a director at the DOT and, you know, I had to work closely with him on decommissioning, Pronto and, and managing that. But then we started to really think about like, well, could this be done differently? Or could this be done without public funds? Also, what’s the opportunity here to maybe get the things that I think to add DOT would like to have control over with other mobilities services into a permit and have, you know, a mutual agreement that these are good for the vendor and the city and get companies to agree to it. And that included things like data sharing, data sharing at the trip level and a format that was saved for the user’s privacy, but as safe as we could be based off of the information we had.
13m 14s
Kyle Rowe

So it was this kind of idea kind of floating in our heads that we could, you know, almost with a blank piece sheet of paper, just to start putting down, like, what would we do with our ideal permit to kinda bring in this technology, but we manage it. And that’s how we did it. I mean, literally opened up a blank word doc. And they were like, all right, operations, and what do I want from every company to follow operating wise is like, how quickly do we want to respond to that shoes? What do I expect them to do to train their staff on deployment etiquette and, and how to manage it the right of way, all kinds of ideas there, maybe we would go shopping around the department and say, Hey, what do you think about this? Like, how should we define the parking requirements? How do we define the parking requirements on a block that doesn’t have a sidewalk, which shuttle has a lot of it.
13m 54s
Kyle Rowe

So we basically put it all out there, shopped around the folks that mostly you have no idea of what it is we are doing. And I was like, what are you doing again? You are replacing Pronto, but your not paying for it. How is that going to happen? This is this making sense. But thankfully, because prior to being shared mobility at a stat, I worked in the long range planning teams. So kinda of the folks who’ve kind of drive the policy and planning functions of the department. And particularly my work was supporting the bike master plan on the 2014 bike master plan. And then I moved into the engineering group. I was a planner by trade, but kind of learned engineering enough to be dangerous. And you know, what kind of adopted this plan engineer role and what is the tip of the spear on a bunch of bike lanes and, and also managed the bike parking program and kept our annual bike map up and running.
14m 42s
Kyle Rowe

So I knew a lot of the pieces of the department that could help me kind of craft this new regulatory framework that would reflect a lot of the things that you really handled by other departments, other divisions within the department, put it out there and, and ask for these feedback to the industry and got great feedback from, from SPIN live in a few other companies, jump at a time when I think there were just in a time where they’re transitioning from social bicycle is that jump. And eventually she just said, Hey, it’s open for application. Yeah. It was kinda crazy that actually that data that we had a bikes launch for the first day, spin was a first to launch. I got incredibly sick. I kind of did.
15m 22s
Kyle Rowe

I was down for a week and it was some sort of fever since like that. But I think it was just like this fear that I have just unleashed thousands of dockless bikes. It’s like an apocalypse on our city streets. And a member is just pretty much been down for the count free for a couple of days. And meanwhile, you know, it’s making headlines, probably people are running around the office with papers, find everywhere and be like, what are we doing about this? The press has asking this question to that question. Where does Kyle I was laying on my bed. Like I would be really stressed,
15m 53s
4

Usually happens. You worked so hard on something. It’s like, M when you are at school, you worked so hard until finals and all that stuff. And then when you get home, your body is like, Oh, you’re done now. Okay well, it’s my turn to us. We take over and, and fix you for a little bit anyway. So it’s that build up? And then the crash afterwards. Yeah. So we had Benjamin Della Penya on episode one 61 to talk about the new mobility playbook, which started to think about equity and data and innovation in, in a different way. And since that document came out, which I think you had a hand in writing, I’m wondering what has been the response and the action to that.
16m 29s
Kyle Rowe

Yeah. Wow. New ability, a playbook. That was a great project. I specifically owned the mobility hub portion. So when I joined this shared mobility team will be, we were, we are making a team, actually what we call it, new mobility. One of the initiatives that we knew was going to be in the playbook, which was in dry format or was this mobility hub initiative, which was an area that I think has a lot of attention in our industry. Most cities are trying to figure out what the role is and try to figure out how they adapt transit stations to be about options and not just transit and facilitate those options. And so my role with that playbook was really crafting some of the language around that particular chapter.
17m 13s
Kyle Rowe

But on the side, I was like heads down on this bike share permit, have inquiry who I’m sure you mentioned when you got to check it out with him, was the champion at that project. And totally on that since then. I think one thing I particularly like about that document in the way that it framed their roles and responsibilities, or was this kind of an analysis of all of the different elements of new mobility are shared mobility or autonomous or, you know, fine delivery drones, all of these new services that are related to moving people and goods and their new or innovative the disruptive. And there are often, and they’re their often electric kind of pushed out on paper like whee, the DOT might not be responsible for it.
17m 56s
Kyle Rowe

And some of them, we may just be a convener and other ones that we may be a funder in certain places that we may just be an enforcer, like a, you know, we may have the authority to basically make sure that this operation is running smoothly and not impacting of the user’s. They pay a couple of different roles, but that’s a big one with micromobility is that they’re responsible for ensuring that the permittees are making their promises. So that was really helpful thinking, I think, for the industry and for definitely folks in the.to understand that, like not every idea that we have about this, this is going to be something that we have to own, that we have to be the ones to implement. I think, you know, a great example of that is like white label transit ticketing apps. You know, we’ve got one here in Seattle, we’ve got a King County.
18m 38s
Kyle Rowe

Metro worked with a white label company, think it is bike park. And they have a, an act that only works in, in King County. And you know, is that the right path forward? I mean, it’s nice to have a mobile ticketing option, especially now when you don’t want to be touching as many things, but you know, is it maybe be better at a work with a provider who has a presence in multiple markets is that that customer are coming from out of town can quickly understand what options are available to them. And I think that’s a reflection of how transit agencies, publications, these are figuring out what role they have. And it’s not always clear and sometimes are going to decide to go on a route and figure out, Hm, maybe we should have been the other room, but it is helpful to kind of get policy makers thinking about a different role.
19m 23s
Kyle Rowe

They may have ultimately trying to make sure that they’re continuing on towards their goals that they have.
19m 28s
Jeff Wood

Yes. I think we have seen a lot of agencies do that, where they go one direction and they have an in house app and then they decide, well, why are we spending all this money when capital T transit does that as well? And they’re in every city. So it’s, it’s a, an interesting process to watch. Right.
19m 41s
Kyle Rowe

And so on that topic specifically, like should one trip planning app have that availability, or should we just have an API that, you know, all companies can post on their app? SPIN could host it, Uber, it could host it. Right. Well, okay. It’s not that easy because these companies need to have a payment relationship with the transit agency cause they are ultimately taken in fair for a bus trip. So then there’s this relationship with the, the, the transit agency that needs to be made to pistol. They pass on FERS and, you know, I figured out how they’re going to handle various discounts and all that and make sure they’re meeting certain requirements. So then kind of almost argues to make an argument.
20m 22s
Kyle Rowe

Well, this is obviously a multi-vendor thing with some minimum level of service, like, Oh, well, that’s a situation we’ve been working on for the last couple of years about bikes and scooters, but you know, there are some corollaries there. Yeah.
20m 35s
Jeff Wood

So now you work at SPIN, which is a part of Ford. I’m curious how the company initially got started and what his goals were then And and are now.
20m 42s
Kyle Rowe

And it’s pretty much stay the same from day one. I mean, I joined SPIN in October of 2017, just last week. I think I had three years. I knew that the company well before that, I mean, we started talking probably, you know, in spring, maybe 2017, when, you know, the news broke that Pronto is going to be shut down and Seattle was going to be without a bike share. The goal was always to make cities better for people. It’s a very simple statement and we’ve always put that at the head of our, you know, presentations and proposals and the way that we want to contribute and, and achieve that is through mobility options. Initially it was Dockless bikes. We saw opportunity to bring this business model idea to the U S and it quickly learned some things that were, and were not going to work for expectation’s from us cities, for you as a consumer versus, and how it worked in China.
21m 34s
Kyle Rowe

But then I saw this opportunity with a scooter, as we both, we were scratching our heads, like, what is this? Like, why has this getting so much demand, but then realizing like, wow, there is so much opportunity to get people into the bike lane that maybe wouldn’t have with a bike. And that actually ended up being proven with data, you know, the first pilot and Portland, they did the survey after in found that I believe it was something that around like 80% of the survey respondents said that it wouldn’t have found themselves in a bike lane, had, this is good enough of an available, which is impressive for a city that has the highest bike share in the us. So that was a really eye-opening realization that allowed us to really quickly transition.
22m 15s
Kyle Rowe

Also, most of the major us markets had exclusivity for bike share specifically on these municipal bikes, your systems like Pronto was so that we created a barrier to being able to expand that particular product to some of the major metros U S and that’s kind of where we started. And the mission hasn’t changed one bit where we’ve just become much more sophisticated in a bigger organization as years have gone on.
22m 41s
4

Well, it seems interesting when I was doing some of the research on SPIN and looking back at some of the documents and some of the things that people had said, it looks like with Ford on board, it seems like you can be a kind of a more patient operation rather than try to blow yourself up in the process of raising money and hyping yourself up, et cetera. What do you think that that’s brought to the table in terms of the backing of a larger company?
23m 3s
Kyle Rowe

Stability? I mean, it’s all about having that long-term vision be at the core of our day-to-day decisions, including how my team is communicating and proposing are service to cities and its not about these promises have, you know, tens of thousands of vehicles within the first few months that will totally transform your city without thinking about the impacts by the thinking about the time it takes for a new community to adopt a new vehicle and also sometimes get comfortable with a Dockless parking environment because most cities experienced station based first, you know, there was recently in an industry day With New York city DOT coz they had been preparing for a, a pilot and have a permanent, an application process come out soon.
23m 49s
Kyle Rowe

And on the industry day call, there was a couple of people from each company, you know, when talking about fleet size, coz you know, the DOT he was listening. And I appreciate that. And it DOT really invites vendor’s to come in and add kind of share what they think and ask good questions and listen prior to, you know, basically prescribing exactly how our service going to work on our city. They heard it, they heard a fleet sizes ranging from something like, you know, one to 2000 to 40,000 vehicles from the industry in terms of like what they think would be a smart for his pilot. And I’d say that’s a reflection on how much pressure there can be on certain companies to really show that they have this runway to grow at that scale in markets as big as in New York.
24m 37s
Kyle Rowe

And thankfully we can stay focused on what makes sense for the operation and the city and understand that that is not going to be 40,000 vehicles in year one. That’s probably not going to be 40,000 vehicles until your 10 20. I dunno, but for awhile we are going to focus on, get in the service. Right making sure that folks know how to use it and use it and safely understanding and that some cities kind of need to start with a small pilot in a certain geography before they talk about city-wide. So yeah, it it’s really nice to have that flexibility and backing.
25m 9s
4

And also it feels like, you know, there’s that one discussion about fleet sizes and, and Sydney is not quite being ready for what happens on the street with scooters and electric bikes being kind of left in places where maybe they weren’t supposed to be left, but how much of that discussion was impacted by how Uber and Lyft did things at the start in terms of, you know, coming in to cities, kind of bullying their way around and then getting their way to a certain extent.
25m 34s
Kyle Rowe

Yeah. You know, there was definitely fear have that. And you know, to be honest, there were attempts to preempt cities at the state level, even prior to being part of Ford, SPIN always oppose those. We put our resources into opposing those state bills. SPIN chose to have MI kind of at the front of our government relations team. So I was not going to support, you know, the state preemption in basically taking you to the power away from the cities. And I think that vision has shared by our, our leadership and the other folks that I worked with, my peers and the Policy team, you know, in our, in our business units. So it wasn’t something that we needed it to really ask ourselves, but it is an important value we have.
26m 14s
Kyle Rowe

And I think, you know, those Uber Lyft tactics were scaring cities with some of the growth tactics and, and how quickly some companies were moving into new markets sometimes without notice. Unfortunately, however, you know, your, your question is kind of, as it relates to the parking environment and the, the behavior there, and yes, vehicles do end up sometimes in the wrong spot. And there are a part of a, maybe in the middle of a sidewalk are blocking, you know, a curb ramp and that’s, we have to do our best to avoid that is to educate folks, you, to maybe provide the right infrastructure, to allow them to do that. However, a lot of times we hear from the community are from certain stakeholders is like this vehicle is parked and crappy.
26m 55s
Kyle Rowe

It’s been sitting here on this block for two days. Its just, you know, it’s not supposed to be here and it’s parked in a compliant manner. And the reality is if there is a line of cars that have been parked there all day and not moving. So sometimes we enter a new community. We are often having to get folks used to the fact that, Hey, someone did come to your block, your business or your neighbor’s house on one of these shared devices. Yes. They chose the park, it there that was done. So in a compliant manner and it may not get picked up right away because maybe it’s a lower density area, but that is totally a compliant trip. Sometimes that friction exists, but that’s just part of a new, a new service coming to town.
27m 36s
4

Yeah. And, and that’s kinda funny, there is when a lot of this was starting up, I saw a number of Twitter posts and things were, people were taking a picture of a Car and saying, Hey, you left your mobility device around.
27m 49s
Kyle Rowe

Yeah. There is a lot of retaliation to the pictures of dockless bikes and heaps with people, you know, finding equally horrific pictures of field’s of cars that has been scrapped. So, you know, I think there is always another, you know, way to, to kinda look at that argument. But you know, we are asking communities to adopt a new vehicle, a new service or a new operating model type. And we’re coming into a, a city in a, in a country that by and large knows that the personal vehicle. So we’re going to have to understand what folks are going to need some time to learn. And as long as we kind of keep focusing, I’m going to go to operation.
28m 29s
Kyle Rowe

I think we can get through those hurdles.
28m 31s
4

How settled do you think the micromobility landscape is at the moment?
28m 34s
Kyle Rowe

And you know, I think we are really starting to see N a U S that we’re kind of narrowing down too. A few strong players that’ll probably be around for the near future. And, and maybe Beyond think Europe is still at a place where its still whittling it down to a few folks that will will last. So I think that is when we see, you know, the permit application process and you are, we still see, you know, like 14 companies applying to some small city in the UK, which is very reminiscent of how the, you know, 2018 and 2019, the competitive landscape looked in the U S but that’s really narrow down like Seattle’s application.
29m 16s
Kyle Rowe

And we had nine companies. Whereas, you know, I forget the city in the UK I’m referencing, but I know that there is on the average UK tender for micromobility for scooters really there’s been, you know, 12 plus companies for a market, probably a quarter of the size
29m 33s
4

Along those same lines. You know, you wrote a piece recently in the ITSC international about how companies like SPIN should work with cities and stakeholders, but what if they want to work with companies? Or what if people who are part of the process don’t want to work with companies who are coming in to their neighborhoods, kind of referencing this discussion over public participation, that’s happening in cities all over the country now with slow streets and all those things in some places there’s folks who just sort of saying like, no we don’t, no, we don’t, I don’t want it. So how do you, how do you deal with those types of interactions as a company, but also as a city?
30m 5s
Kyle Rowe

Yeah. That has happened quite a bit. You know, there are still probably well over a dozen cities in the U S that have banned scooters. You know what my sense is that is mostly a reaction to the type of expansion that happened. A lot of those cities or ones that had scooters drop on their streets one day, without any notice, Santa Barbara, West Hollywood, Manhattan beach, you know, a lot of the smaller cities around LA I’ve taken that path. And, you know, I think it was mostly a reaction to the expansion efforts, very, you know, Uber and Lyft type of tactics for expansion and the city’s had, you know, we’re not going to have any of it.
30m 44s
Kyle Rowe

And with this service, you know, we are asking to store our vehicles are our products on the right of way. So the authority to ban that service is, is much more clear. Whereas, you know, a TNC is really a better network of drivers in customers that are connected on an app. There is not actually an asset of the companies is being stored. So it’s, the authority is different, but the impacts are still there, right? Because we’ve seen, you know, transit ridership has been impacted significantly by TMCs in certain jurisdictions. So that’s a big piece of it. But then you also have like Montreal is a great example where Montreal actually welcomed scooter companies. And they did a pilot where they said, Hey, there’s, this is the way that we want to top, right?
31m 26s
Kyle Rowe

If we need to have the Parkin environment, be basically a station based, but using the virtual sessions and we need to insure that, you know, your customers are going to end trips and these places that we designate and, you know, I’ll show you, I was a really successful station based bikes, your system. So we know in terms of a city adopting that, Policy I actually say, you know, that’s a city. I would probably trust to understand the importance of density station vocations. The companies that participate in a pilot, you know, the compliance was so low that Montreal just said, you know what, we’re not doing the scooters and they just ban share it. Scooters are, at least are not allowed to operate in Montreal. So it’s not always the rogue launch expansion strategy that kind of scares it as a way.
32m 6s
Kyle Rowe

Sometimes it’s just like, you know, they, they had an experience and they decided that’s not for them. So with those cities, you know, I think at least as the tactics has been takes, is that what you want to share? How do we see our services, our product offer in a value, where is it that we can accomplish? Almost every city has stated that they have mode shift goals. They have sustainability goals, they have equity goals and we can, with our service, we can help towards those goals by providing the green mowed, a lower cost option in the end, they may say Thanks, but we’re still going to keep it down. But over time they may realize that they’re with a hurdle, they can’t get over it. A great example of that would be the UK. So schools have been illegal and the UK for a long time, the code exists for probably a a hundred plus years.
32m 49s
Kyle Rowe

But the service that we operate now is just recently challenged that like, Hey, there’s a device that falls into a vehicle code that was probably not intended by the folks who wrote it when they did, but because of that, we can operate it. And then COVID hit. And, you know, TFL released a study basically saying how much capacity they could carry versus their typical transit ridership where the average headway. And it was something like the average training to carry a 15% of the capacity with the same Headways at peak hour. And so now we’re faced with this question, we’re like, okay, where do you want to start reopening your economy? You get people moving to get people back into their workplace, or if it’s safe, how do you do that? ’cause and so there’s the vaccine. People probably aren’t gonna want to get on transit and you’re probably still gonna be recommending.
33m 32s
Kyle Rowe

They don’t know that they have in a lot of other alternatives. So the UK quickly legalized scooter is welcomed any city in UK to host a trial. And so now we’ve seen, I dunno, a couple of dozen cities in the last three months, all put out tenders for, for companies to come in, do a trial and our city. So this is a great example of, of, you know, maybe they didn’t consciously decide that scooter is we’re going to be banned from their city, but they were presented with a challenge and recognize that there is a partnership here that could help us solve this. It doesn’t require funding for, from us. It requires that we changed our code and way that we work with the private sector to do it. Right. So that’s, I think that’s a great example of just making sure that cities know we’re available and that we do have a value add to offer.
34m 16s
4

That’s really interesting. And the context of here in the Bay area, I know that MTC was looking at a 60% work from home mandate, which people have been pushing back against because of the economies of downtowns and things like that. Yeah. But also Brookings just came out with a report where they looked at a lot of data on a number of cities and said that, you know, the average Tripp is about seven miles, but in urban areas, it’s about four. And so I’m wondering how like scooters and micromobility generally fit into those policy prescriptions that are coming out before the pandemic, but also after it as well in, like you said, it CFLs situation, but I’m curious about us cities, how their policy effects, how you all do business.
34m 52s
Kyle Rowe

Yeah, it definitely does. You know, we’ve seen the trends have changed a lot. We’ve adopted our service and deployed in different areas to, you know, acknowledge that changed, but also to try to help fill gaps of areas that were depended on transit. And now we are being told that they probably shouldn’t use transit. There is likely increased demand, but there’s also, that’s why we’re here. We’re here to help people get around. And we did this deliberately in partnership with cities that we’re at the forefront of trying to solve this issue, especially when we had, you know, essential workers, pretty much the only people that were getting around and some of them didn’t have a car to use the bus everyday. We split up a number of deliberate partnerships with cities sometimes with foundations as well.
35m 34s
Kyle Rowe

So as to fund pretty much free or very reduced rides for essential workers to make sure that we were getting those very key individuals to their places of employment every day. And that kind of framework of how we think about where we deploy and who we’re serving has continued throughout the pandemic. And then we just seen the heat map of our trips has totally moved out into the downtown, into the neighborhoods. The trip distances are a lot longer than they were, and there’s a slight dip in their rides per vehicle. We’ve seen since the previous year’s that started to recover as the tail end of summer. Obviously whether it is now kind of put in a sense of the down season for specifically AR mowed in the colder market’s, but it is harder to recover in a triplex have had, have stayed pretty long.
36m 19s
Kyle Rowe

So I think folks, our understanding the services is not just something to move around downtown, but also their neighborhoods and folks are also becoming tourists and their own city. No, because you couldn’t really travel to somewhere to go on vacation. So our trip distance on labor day this year was 15% longer market-wide than last year was labor day. So I think people really liked stand like, Hey, what are you going to do in Town? Cause this is what we are doing this weekend. And sometimes grabbing a scooter and, you know, going in to the waterfront or going to some new neighborhoods to check out a new coffee shop. Was it what folks for choosing to do it?
36m 54s
Jeff Wood

I want to be mindful of your time. Cause I think we’re, we’re almost out of time. So this will be my last question. You’ve done a build, a better bike barrier. You announced that you’re going carbon negative. There was another urban design challenge that happened recently. I’m curious, which of these things as your favorite in terms of putting together a process for engaging people,
37m 11s
Kyle Rowe

The work that our policy initiative’s team does, which is to build a better like a barrier, the data in a partnership we did with non-profits the numerous street redesign projects that we did. We currently had a project in London, upcycling materials for building a parklet. I mean, what we’ve built as a team in spin, who is working at once, we were in a market or even a market, we are not in yet, but we’re actively pursuing their thinking about how we can work with folks who already know what’s going on locally, who already have the hyper-awareness of the needs of our community, or maybe they are a designer and they just need, you know, a little bit of a kickstart to get this really cool project they have going on, or maybe they are an advocacy organization has been fighting for this bike lane forever.
37m 59s
Kyle Rowe

And they have an opportunity to showcase it. We did this in Nashville where we worked with the walk like a Nashville. And during parking day, last year, we were able to showcase two blocks of a four block bike lane that has been held up from stakeholders who are really concerned about the parking loss for years. And we really have a tool to help them showcase it by basically finding those local advocates in opportunities and getting them to pursue their ideas and share to hae spins behind it. We are private company operating in your city. Support this will help you get it done. And we want to see, you know, the success they realized. And hopefully if it’s infrastructure it’s implemented long-term if it’s a data Partnerships or a design competition that it spurs more good work.
38m 41s
Kyle Rowe

I think the park with design competition is a great example. We did this in Denver, where we invited designers to present ideas on how they would build a Parkway that incorporated micromobility parking. We chose six of the designs, give them some funds to fund the designer, come to Denver during the parking de and build their park. And then we had a committee that when viewed all the parklets and they can be awarded the, when a designer who is an individual from Kansas city, he then went back to his own town in Kansas city. And coming off of the success of the way in this design competition was able to pass a parklet ordinance in Kansas city, making parklets legal and his hometown. And now we’re actually has a business where he offers services for building, you know, parklets and other kinds of tactical urbanism projects forward, whether you’re a business or whether you’re a micromobility provider, or you need to just, you know, a, a, a bench at your pee patch, he’s a available to help folks kind of built those, the services that are that’s incredible.
39m 37s
Kyle Rowe

We couldn’t have expected that outcome, but it just, you know, getting involved in trying to show that this is what we care about. We help them, you know, kind of spur that change. So that’s stuff that excites me the most. I wish I got to work more directly on it, but the folks that we have in that unit of SPIN is there are incredible every month, there’s a new, a great idea come out of them. And so keep an eye on our website in our, our social media pages, because I’m sure you’re going to keep seeing cool projects from that team. So what’s next for you? Well, we’ll go ahead and prepare for winter. I know
40m 6s
Jeff Wood

I’m asking you where
40m 9s
Kyle Rowe

We’re working on a lot of markets in Europe where we re I think that’s probably the place to watch. SPIN the near future. We’ve got an, a few opportunities to, to launch and the UK. So we’re really excited about we expanded in Germany and we are looking at other countries as well. So hopefully moving internationally, but continuing to focus on improvements locally, that’s gonna be the focus for SPIN and, and, and certainly for my team, for the near future. And where can folks find you
40m 34s
Jeff Wood

Online or wherever you want to be found, or if you don’t want to be found,
40m 38s
Kyle Rowe

We were welcomed to find me. I had a Twitter account, but I, I frankly rarely use it, but you can find me at a it’s an app K Rowe for on Twitter. And then spin.app is probably the best way to figure out what I’m working on. It just won’t have my name attached to it. Alright, well, Kyle, thanks for joining us. We really appreciate it. Of course. Thanks for having me.
41m 3s
Jeff Wood

Thanks for joining us. The Talking Headways podcast as your project with The Overhead Wire on the [email protected] Sign up for a free trial of The Overhead Wire Daley or a 14 year old daily city’s news list by clicking the link at the top, right of The Overhead wire.com. And please, please, please put the pod. I’m going to pitch you on.com/the Overhead Wire many thanks to our current patrons for their ongoing support. And as always, you can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, overclass Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts, and you can always find a traditional [email protected] See you next time at Talking Headways.


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