Stumped on how to solve e-scooters ending up in the Bronx River, one company has partially suspended service because of it.
Veo — one of the three e-scooter companies participating in the East Bronx e-scooter pilot — removed access along the Bronx River Parkway because of people regularly vandalizing the devices, throwing them into the river and abandoning them in the park, Veo spokesperson Page Miller told the Bronx Times.
“After discussing this issue with the City and local stakeholders, we made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend service in the area while we further evaluate the situation and explore long-term solutions,” Miller said. “As a reminder, if residents see anyone vandalizing or misusing vehicles, they should contact 311.”
To deter vandalism and vehicles ending up in the river, the company first geofenced the parkland that runs along the Bronx River Parkway earlier this summer. But when the problem persisted, the no-ride zone was expanded outside the park in late July, going from East 233rd Street down along Carpenter and Olinville avenues until Pelham Parkway, restricting access to Bronx Boulevard/Bronx Park East as well as Duncomb and Barker avenues and the side streets in between.
“This is a temporary measure intended to address a specific vandalism issue in the area until a long-term solution is identified,” Miller told the Bronx Times on Aug. 23, though the suspension currently remains in effect.
Jason McFarlane, a Wakefield resident who regularly rides e-scooters with more than 1,200 trips under his belt, told the Bronx Times removing access to the bike lanes along the Bronx River Parkway and Bronx Boulevard — which feel safer to travel on than other nearby options — was “one of the worst things Veo could have done.”
“Going through Bronx Park is like the safest way for me,” he said. “Every other street is riddled with potholes, people double parking, the sidewalks are narrow, so even if I was to ride on the sidewalks for safety, it’s hard to do that.”
The issue of e-scooters and Citi Bikes ending up in the Bronx River isn’t new.
Back in November 2022, nonprofit organization The Litter Legion posted photos on Facebook showing more than a dozen e-scooters and bikes scattered along the river and volunteers pulling them out in what the group called a “weekly” problem.
“While the e-scooter pilot program is being touted as a success, there are serious unintended impacts to our environment that need to be addressed,” the post reads. “Since the program began, hundreds of scooters have been found in the Bronx River.”
While Lime and Bird — the two other companies participating in the e-scooter pilot — have also seen devices ending up in the river, the companies have not removed access to the area.
Lauren Scribi, a spokesperson for Bird, told the Bronx Times that the company has “experienced minimal instances of vandalism.” A Lime spokesperson also said the company has “had minimal problems” around the Bronx River and surrounding park.
“Our team does proactive sweeps of the area and they are notified when a vehicle goes offline so when a Bird scooter does end up in the Bronx River, there is a quick retrieval,” Scribi said.
Lime attributed its self-proclaimed success on this issue to “our work to prevent issues before they happen through community outreach and tech solutions like geofencing.”
However, the November 2022 post by The Litter Legion said that the burden to remove devices from the river had fallen upon volunteers or Bronx River Alliance staff — an organization that cares for the river –rather than the companies. And the clean river advocates continue to sweep up the scooters.
The Bronx River Alliance’s conservation team has removed more than 60 e-scooters this year, and a similar amount last year, alliance spokesperson Diogomaye Ndiaye told the Bronx Times. Members of the organization have routinely seen 15-20 scooters in the river near 219th and 174th streets, as well as e-scooters left along the river or blocking park paths and ADA entry ramps.
Devices have ended up in the river for as long as the pilot has existed — since August 2021, Ndiaye said.
Scooters left in the parks are easy to access. In one instance, Bronx River Alliance workers saw a child in Shoelace Park pick up a parked Veo e-scooter, roll it down the hill toward the river and leave it on the ground near the Olinville Playground, he said.
McFarlane, the avid scooter rider, said he has also seen kids toying around with the scooters — they hop on and can’t activate it, so they play with it in any way they can, including seeing how far they can make it roll down a hill into the river.
“We are fortunate to be an established organization with a full-time Conservation Crew that can work to retrieve some of these vehicles,” said Ndiaye, the Bronx River Alliance spokesperson. “Realistically though, the amount of time spent retrieving these vehicles and coordinating pickup by the e-scooter companies is high and could be a full-time job.”
The Bronx has lost micromobility service due to vandalism before, with moped company Revel pulling its mopeds from the borough in December 2021 due to thefts of parts, as first reported by the Bronx Times. The company began transitioning the devices back into the borough this spring.
Spokespersons for the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) — the agency that oversees the e-scooter program — declined to comment on the service area being decreased, the issue of vandalism with the e-scooters in general and how the agency has reacted to scooters being thrown in the river, instead deferring inquiries to Veo.
Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes