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Low-Speed Vehicles to Offer Free Rides in Covington, Newport

Covington streets are starting to fill with alternative forms of transportation.

In addition to the ubiquitous Uber and Lyft drivers, Red Bikes and Pedal Wagons are frequently spotted, too.

Next on the horizon are the start-up free ride services OGGO and Gest.

The Cincinnati-based businesses will offer transportation, at no charge, in Cincinnati, Covington, and Newport, in their sleek low-speed vehicles.

Representatives from both companies addressed the Covington city commission on Tuesday night. City Hall is being asked to address its ordinance related to low-speed vehicles. The main goal of the current ordinance is to regulate golf carts on city streets, so it needs to be tweaked in order to allow OGGO and Gest to operate. A first reading of the ordinance change is slated for next week.

Some city leaders took rides in the new vehicles prior to Tuesday's city commission meeting.

"All this ordinance would do is allow low-speed vehicles to operate in the City of Covington with a grid between the (Ohio) River, I-75, the Licking River, and up to 12th Street," said attorney Brandon Voelker, who works with the city's legal department. "That way they are not getting asked to drive further out where you have issues of a battery change."

The rides are free. The businesses make their money from advertisements on the vehicles.

They don't exceed 25 miles per hour.

"A family with young children - it seems like something they would enjoy more than Uber because it's neat, but it's also safe," Voelker said. "They are even able to seal them off when it rains."

"We have headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, windshield wipers, seat belts," said Patrick Dye, co-founder and CEO of Gest. "Anything that a car has, we have on our vehicles."

The companies are working with local officials to iron out details and more details on their operation in Covington and Newport is expected to be released soon. Dye said he has been working with Southbank Partners and Strategic Advisers on an announcement.

Newport does not have an ordinance like Covington's, so no legislation is needed there, Dye said.

In Covington, the vehicles will stick to streets that have speed limits of 25 miles per hour or less. "We want to keep this north of 12th in an area highly trafficked with pedestrians and people trying to get around from one venue to another," said Dustin Grutza, co-founder of OGGO. Michael Palmer and Joe Creighton also represented OGGO at Tuesday's meeting.

The vehicles are expected to hit the road, connecting passengers to the urban core of Cincinnati, Covington, and Newport soon. Both are available through apps downloaded to mobile phones.

And yes, the City of Covington is also talking with the people behind the Bird scooters, which are also popping up on the city's streets after launching in Cincinnati. The talks are early but more details should be known soon.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher