What makes this startup stand out? You can sit down
Competition and controversy abounds in the race to improve Miami’s mobility options. It seems like the on-again-off-again pilot program from the Miami City Commission is safe for now, with seven providers helping tourists and residents alike scoot around the Magic City. Well, at least part of it.
Wheels is one of these seven providers. The Los Angeles-based startup, which was founded in 2018, has been active in Miami since 2019.
“Wheels started with a safety and accessibility mindset that has been built around everything we do,” Will Sowers, Wheels’ Director of Public Affairs, told Refresh Miami.
This focus on safety is particularly critical in the context of Miami. The Miami City Commission signaled that it plans to prioritize the safety of pedestrians and micromobility riders alike.
According to a safety study, Wheels riders face up to 66 times fewer injuries than scooters and 4 times fewer injuries than bikes. Wheels’ injury rate is roughly 1 in every 75,000 miles ridden.
One critical factor that makes Wheels safer than the competitors is that it is the only provider that gives users a helmet. “Quite frankly, not everyone wants to bring a helmet with them everywhere they go,” noted Sowers.
A UCLA study shows that only around four percent of riders wear helmets, despite the fact that one in three people involved in electric scooter accidents end up in an emergency room. Having a helmet attached to the mobility device may push people to ride safely.
The other key difference is that Wheel’s devices are closer to electric bikes than scooters, enabling users to sit down while riding. Sowers noted that this makes them more accessible to a wider range of users: “I’ve seen everyone from age 18 to 70 on a Wheels device.” He says Wheels vehicles even work for people with mobility needs or other medical issues such as arthritis.
The startup has deployed a flock of 100 devices, with plans to increase to 150 soon. “Ridership is growing fantastically,” reported Sower, underscoring that Wheel’s micromobility solution is equally relevant to suburban contexts like Miami Lakes as it is in Miami’s dense urban core.
Sowers, who is based in Orlando, previously managed the startup’s operations across Florida before stepping up to oversee all East Coast operations and eventually taking on his current national public affairs role. Sowers praised local nonprofit Miami Riders Alliance for their role in advocating for micromobility solutions in our community.
40 of Wheels’ roughly 200 employees are based in Florida. Sowers highlighted that these are full-time W2 employees, rather than contractors. Why does that matter? “We have found that the quality of the operation and our ability to connect with the city that we’re in goes up,” said Sowers. He explained that employees can rapidly rise through the ranks at Wheels, citing the success of a few managers who started as entry-level mechanics and field service team members.
Wheels’ devices are available on-demand through their app and through Lime. For a subscription starting at $89.99 a month, riders can bring their Wheels vehicle home and let the startup take care of any maintenance issues.
READ MORE MIAMI MOBILITY STORIES ON REFRESH MIAMI:
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