Andrea M. Baldrias
Since September, the University of California Riverside (UCR) has experienced an upsurge of motorized scooters on-campus identified as Birds.
The university is focused on finding long-term solutions as there have been several complaints as well. According to a UCR campus police report, one incident occurred between a Bird rider and bicyclist that resulted in an injury.
Bird is a Santa Monica-based electric scooter company that allows riders to rent their rechargeable motorized scooters via mobile app.
Their scooters can be found sprawled across predominantly urban areas; however, they have raised concern for safety in multiple cities like San Francisco, Palm Springs, Santa Monica, and now for the UC Riverside community and Riverside residents.
On November 1, an inaugural meeting was held to sift out solutions for these new, popular modes of transportation. Potential solutions include educating riders on safety procedures, increased informational signage on their use, and partnering with scooter companies on applying campus rules.
Since 2010, UCR campus policy 450-24 has barred usage of Electronic Motorized Scooters (EMS) on the campus sidewalks and pathways, and has only allowed them to be used in manual mode. UCR Housing Regulation 2.26 states pocket motorbikes and unlicensed motorized scooters are not street-legal and are not to be used on UCR streets, roadways, sidewalks or parking lots, including those in and around UCR Housing facilities.
Campus sidewalks and pathways are primarily designated for pedestrians, and the influx of Bird and Lime scooters has warranted concern for pedestrian safety. An exception to the UCR policy is the use of electric or gasoline powered, unlicensed, motorized scooters which are allowed for use by individuals who are mobility impaired, as personal conveyance vehicles.
A group of campus stakeholders has been working to find solutions. These include geo-fencing, which would create a virtual boundary—the motorized function of the scooters would not operate beyond the virtual boundary. Another solution includes “dismount zone” signage, which would notify riders that scooter use must end after a certain point. If scooters are left beyond the dismount zone they may be subject to an impound fee.
There have been discussions of whether the campus should consider partnering with one vendor for rights to operate scooters on campus. An agreement with these companies would guarantee that scooter use guidelines like helmet use and solely using manual mode on campus are enforced. President of Associated Students, Semi Cole, commented, “I believe the rise of electric scooters is a part of a modern-day revolution within transportation. And with any new wave of innovation, it rarely comes when people are well and aptly prepared for it. But with its value inherent from its provision of safe, convenient, and reliable transportation, Bird and Lime scooters pioneer easy access for students to efficiently travel in and around the campus.”
Long term-solutions include the university possibly integrating scooters into its infrastructure plan to accommodate campus usage along with bicycles and skateboards. “With campuses all over the UC system dealing with issues of insufficient parking, Bird and Lime scooters come at a time when students are facing the tremendous hurdle of just attending classes, with these new innovative electric scooters offering a convenient and low-cost alternative to driving to campus,” Cole expounded.
According to Cole, a central component to a smoother integration of scooters is a collaborative effort between scooter companies and the university to foster education surrounding their use. The university will continue to seek input from the student body, faculty, and local community to find an approach to managing the influx of scooters that benefits all.