by Cynthia Tran
LOS ANGELES — UCLA is known for its easily walkable campus, but its size of 419 acres makes the use of e-scooters a popular choice of transportation for students who are looking to shorten their commute to classes and other places on campus. Many students appreciate the convenience of the e-scooters as they are accessible almost anywhere on campus and allow them to make usual 30-minute trips in 15 minutes.
The most common e-scooter you can find on campus is the Bird, manufactured by the company Bird, which provides most of the rentable e-scooters for UCLA students. To use a Bird, students must first pay a starting price of $1 before being charged $0.25 per minute during use. In addition to its affordability, students are allowed to set the bird anywhere after use, making them easily available to find by other students who wish to use it.
Despite the many benefits of using an e-scooter, it also poses many safety concerns. To begin with, most users of the e-scooters do not wear a helmet while riding which can contribute to the severity of injuries if the rider were to obtain them. According to a UCLA research study, e-scooter injury rates are more similar to that of motorcycles than regular bicycles with an estimated 115 injuries per million trips.
To encourage e-scooter safety, Bird has made it so that riders can save 25 cents if they place their bird in a designated e-scooter parking area at the end of their ride as well as future ride credit to those who send a selfie with their helmet on. However, most riders continue not to follow safety precautions due to their lack of knowledge about it or the inconvenience it poses.
Those injury statistics not only include accidents involving the riders themselves (e.g., falling off the e-scooter, hitting objects), but also accidents involving non-riders, such as other people being hit by e-scooters or tripping over them on the sidewalk. This makes the need for safe bird use an overall issue for both e-scooter users and non users. Numerous UCLA students have reported problems with high-speed e-scooters narrowly missing them on campus, causing them to feel unsafe at times.
On the r/ucla Reddit forum where UCLA students post their opinions and campus reports, negative experiences with e-scooters are nothing new. User South_Lobster11 posted a PSA on May 3, 2023 with a photo of a student on an e-scooter, captioning, “[This guy] came speeding down Bruinwalk and almost slammed directly into a girl from behind. He narrowly missed her, speeding past by like an inch after a screeching deceleration.”
Not only is there a question of safety precautions for e-scooter riders, but the risky speed at which many riders use also raises the concern of how e-scooter misuse can negatively affect the mental well-being and safety of the students on campus.
Due to the lack of effectiveness in safety protocols, the issue of e-scooter safety is still being debated. It raises the question of what is more important: safety or convenience? In order to have both, we must acknowledge that convenience can be safe too, but we first need to discourage misuse of e-scooters and implement mandatory safety protocols.