MANKATO – A second scooter sharing company contacted the city of Mankato this week to place their electric scooters on communal sidewalks that are available to the public to rent.
Scooter sharing companies have become a fixture in many larger urban areas over the past five years, but are increasingly exploring smaller cities, especially university towns.
Bird, a Santa Monica, California-based company, was the first to propose bringing rental scooters into much of Mankato and sent the city a lengthy proposal for 50 or more scooters. A committee composed of representatives from several municipal departments was formed to examine the pros and cons of approving the service.
Now White Fox Scooters from New Jersey offers an alternative.
“They called to see if we were interested in a program,” said Susan Arntz, manager of Mankato City. “We haven’t given you an answer yet.”
White Fox and Bird’s e-scooter services have a huge difference. Bird and other early scooter rental companies traditionally operated a “dockless” system, which means that the machines did not have to be parked in specific racks when the riders finished their journey. According to complaints in some cities, scooters are randomly left on sidewalks, making streets unsightly and causing problems for pedestrians.
White Fox uses a “docked” business model in which scooters would have to be placed by drivers in one of several physical docks in the city. The docks, which can also serve as battery charging stations, were placed in hotels, parking garages and university campuses in cities on the east coast where White Fox originally focused its business.
Bird’s Mankato proposal seeks to address clutter concerns by promising to have geographically narrow “nests” in which drivers have to park their scooters. Drivers must end their rental by sending a photo from their cell phones to verify that the machine has been properly parked.
While White Fox hasn’t made a formal proposal to the city, it’s one of two companies that responded to a Minnesota State University request for suggestions for their own e-scooter rental program that could be operational as early as this spring.
The MSU is considering approving 50 to 200 rental scooters that could operate on campus and in nearby areas with large student housing complexes.