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An end to campus transport misery? E-scooters on campus

Paul Greatrix takes some time to scoot around campus
This article is more than 2 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

E-scooters are the latest big thing on US campuses. While popular with students, many university authorities are extremely anxious about the risks to users and pedestrians and seeking to regulate their use.

E-scooters really sound like the future is here. With a simple app-based, pay-as-you-go system, you can understand why the companies offering the scooters have attracted big investments.

As Inside Higher Ed reports universities are struggling to work out how best to deal with the scooter craze, where they can be used and where to park them. Miami University in Oxford (that’s Oxford in Ohio) faced a particular challenge. It’s summed up in a letter from David Creamer a senior administrator to Bird Rides Inc:

The university will not assume and expressly denies any responsibility or liability for any damage to e-scooters that may be present on university property. Similarly, the university will not assume and expressly denies any responsibility for any property damage, injuries or deaths caused by e-scooters.

“Since it appears the city is encouraging the use of e-scooters by Miami University students and employees, we expect the city and Bird Rides Inc. are fully prepared to accept all legal and financial responsibility for the use or misuse of e-scooters.”

Since then though the university has amended its policies to allow e-scooters on campus under a series of conditions, including that riders must walk the scooters on pavements, ride them in bike lanes and park them at bike racks. Similarly, Indiana University at Bloomington requires e-scooters to be parked in bike racks whereas Michigan State University requires that students park their e-scooter in a metered parking space or obtain a moped parking permit.

However, students don’t always play by the rules which means that the e-scooters end up being impounded. According to Inside Higher Ed, Michigan State University had impounded 176 e-scooters and Indiana University impounded 150 in just 20 days.

The scooter company can retrieve the scooters for a fee, which varies from campus to campus and based on where the scooter was parked. At Indiana University, a scooter found left in landscaping could cost $40-$50 to retrieve, while a scooter parked in a pathway or ramp mandated by the Americans With Disabilities Act could cost upwards of $100 to get back. To collect hundreds of impounded scooters could cost a company thousands.

But then there is the safety issue. E-scooter companies, as well as the universities, offer safety guidelines for riders, but it seems that students are not so good at following them and are rather reluctant to wear helmets, for example.

Injuries involving e-scooters seem to be on the rise as the Washington Post reported recently:

As injured electric-scooter riders pour into emergency departments across the country, doctors have scrambled to document a trend that many view as a growing public safety crisis.
A detailed statistical portrait of that crisis won’t be available for another year, emergency physicians say, but some early samples are beginning to emerge.
In Salt Lake City — where dockless electric scooters have been on city streets since June — one hospital says it has seen a 161% increase in the number of visits involving scooters after comparing its latest statistics with the same three-month period a year earlier.

E-scooters appear set to offer plenty of challenges to universities (and hospitals) in the US. Will they catch on in the UK? Yes, you can buy them at Argos but you can only ride them on private land. Unless a big campus university decides to adopt them as an exciting addition to the student experience, it seems rather unlikely. It’s probably for the best. Has your campus had an exciting e-scooter experience?

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