Rental e-scooters roll into Yellow Springs
- Published: April 24, 2023
This summer, Yellow Springs visitors and villagers will see more than just bikes and cars cruising down local roads. With the recent opening of YS Scooter, LLC, a fleet of 20 electric scooters have landed in town and are ready to be rented.
The company, which earlier this month set up shop in a shed within the Millworks industrial park on Walnut Street, was established by longtime village residents and brothers Terry and Gary Lawson, whose shared connection to Yellow Springs goes back six generations.
“Gary and I thought if there was ever a small town that could support something like this, it would be this one,” Terry Lawson, the elder brother, told the News last week. “We want people to really get out there and see all that Yellow Springs has to offer — and on a scooter, you can see more and go farther.”
“That’s right,” Gary Lawson said. “We’re hoping to bring something positive to town.”
With the creation of YS Scooter, the village joins a growing list of cities and towns worldwide with rental e-scooter services. According to 2022 data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, around 158 cities in the country have a municipal or private rental service. And like most of them, YS Scooter’s approach to rentals will be largely autonomous. While most of the Lawsons’ scooters have to be charged regularly at their Millworks location, much of the scooters’ time will be in and around downtown Yellow Springs — propped up, waiting to be ridden.
“They’re going to be out among the people,” Terry Lawson said.
To rent one, a user will scan a QR code by the handlebars or go to yellowspringsscooter.com, sign a digital liability waiver, indicate the duration of the rental and pay the rental cost and ride away. Costs start at $10 per hour, and scooters can be borrowed for up to a week. Prices may vary depending on demand.
In setting up the physical parameters of the business, the Lawsons established a “geofence” around the village, so the scooters will only function within the confines of Yellow Springs. They can be ridden as far east as the East Enon Road/Dayton-Yellow Springs Road intersection, as far west as Meredith Road, no further south than East Hyde Road and no further north than Jackson Road.
On the bike path — on which e-scooters are permitted — that means riders must stay between Young’s Dairy and the Richard Eastman Covered Bridge. However, per municipal law, scooters may not be ridden on sidewalks.
According to Terry Lawson, the company’s scooters — manufactured by New York City-based dealer Levy Electric — can reach speeds up to 18 miles per hour and can hold a charge for approximately 40 miles. Both those factors, though, depend on road and weather conditions as well as the physical size of the individual on the scooter, the Lawsons said.
Those wishing to rent from YS Scooter must be 16 years old or older, and those younger than 18 must have a parent or guardian sign the liability form that all riders must fill out.
“That liability protection is required by the state,” Terry Lawson explained. “There’s this expectation that if you ride, you’ll take care. But we’re still covered with $2 million worth of liability insurance through Levy Electric.”
While riders are not required to wear protective gear such as padding and helmets, the Lawsons still want those using their scooters to be as safe as possible: YS Scooter also rents helmets.
Owing to the Lawsons’ intimate familiarity with Yellow Springs, the brothers have a number of plans to weave their rental service into the fabric of the village. For one, they intend to partner with and work alongside Village administration to eventually establish several additional charging stations throughout town — ideally one in each quarter of the village, with the homebase still at Millworks.
To keep riders from abandoning or abusing the scooters, the Lawsons also have a plan in place.
“I’ve seen places like Springfield, Columbus, Dallas — the list goes on — where people leave scooters in people’s front yards,” Terry Lawson said. “And we intend to avoid that. When renting a scooter, people will pay a deposit fee. If they bring the scooter back to the shed at Millworks to recharge, they’ll get that deposit back. We want to be intentional about all this.”
The target audiences of the business, the pair said, consist of three groups: tourists and visitors from out of town who want to explore Yellow Springs beyond the downtown business district; locals who may have trouble finding parking on busy weekends, perhaps when they want to run a quick downtown errand; and those staying in short-term rentals on the outskirts of downtown who want to avoid driving.
“But at the end of the day, I want to help villagers out,” Terry Lawson said. “I want to take care of my town.”
And one way the Lawsons are doing that is by setting up a relationship with The 365 Project, the Yellow Springs nonprofit that promotes and programs around Black heritage and culture in the village. As Gary Lawson explained, he and his brother have been working with 365 organizers to incorporate e-scooters into the annual series of Blacks in Yellow Springs historical walking tours.
“Maybe people on the tours can see a little more on the scooters. Get a little more history,” Gary Lawson said.
Speaking of history, the two brothers, who are Black, see themselves continuing a rich history of Black entrepreneurship in Yellow Springs with their creation of YS Scooter.
“In a way, we’re paying homage to all the businesses we saw in the village when we grew up here in the ’60s and ’70s,” Terry Lawson said. “Back then, it was commonplace for there to be a Black-owned business on every block. Because of that, I grew up thinking that if I wanted to become a businessman, I could do it. No problem.”
Like The 365 Project, the Lawson brothers hope to broaden people’s understanding of Yellow Springs with YS Scooter. The pair said they recognize the appeal and pull of the centralized strip of shops, but they hope to bring visitors beyond the limits of downtown Yellow Springs. Their slogan, after all, is “Explore the village.”
“There are a lot of sights a little further away from downtown that are overlooked,” Terry Lawson said. “The covered bridge. The beautiful architecture at Antioch. The Women’s Park. I think our scooters can help people expand their ideas of the village and what it has to offer. Yellow Springs is a beautiful place.”