It’s late August and the first week back on campus after summer break. The city of Columbus is buzzing, and students are greeted by the faces of their fellow classmates and their new professors. The familiar colors of scarlet and gray stand at the forefront of their surroundings, but the foreign colors of green, black and white have also made their presence large, encompassing a new and innovative form of transportation. Electric scooters have officially made their debut at The Ohio State University and in the city of Columbus.
In recent years, the demand for transportation services other than cars has proved large, and, most recently, electric scooters have made their appearance. While they have been demonstrated to be highly effective, only time will tell if scooter companies will remain resistant to the increase in criticism and controversy as well as rules and regulations that continue to escalate across the country.
Bird and Lime, the popular electric scooter companies that were founded in California and North Carolina respectively, are celebrating their year anniversary and have recently made their presence large in Columbus. Bird made its debut in July with Lime following closely behind in August, becoming the newest fad for short distance, affordable and environmentally friendly transportation in and around the city.
While electric scooters are a popular mode of transportation, they have become increasingly controversial in recent months, with many considering them a danger to the safety of people everywhere. This is largely due to the fact that, according to Angie Schmitt, reporter for the Streetsblog USA, the death rate on shared e-scooters is now six times worse than the death rate for bike share systems. Various cities have taken stances against electric scooters, putting laws and regulations in place and, at times, banning them all together.
The city of Columbus recently enacted a law prohibiting riders from operating e-scooters on sidewalks. They are also planning to present additional electric scooter rules to the Columbus City Council in the near future. According to Columbus Underground, some of the rules being proposed include: riders under the age of 18 are required to wear helmets, scooter speeds cannot exceed 20 miles per hour, and headlights and red rear reflectors are required at night. The City Council’s response to these proposed rules may have a large impact on the usage rate of electric scooters in our community.
While scooters are controversial in the city of Columbus as a whole, many students at Ohio State also possess different opinions on the new existence of scooters on campus. Some have enjoyed and taken advantage of the addition of this new, easy and inexpensive mode of transportation. However, some find it frustrating, constantly having to worry about being hit
by a scooter flying by if they step in the wrong direction.
“Personally, I think that having scooters on campus has been great,” Will Mason, sophomore student majoring in Finance, said. “It’s an efficient way to get to class when you’re running late and is a great way to save energy when traveling across campus”.
Typically, the students who consider themselves to be avid scooter riders have a brand preference. Will mentioned that in his opinion, while both scooter brands are very comparable, he finds Lime scooter’s slightly easier to handle.
The business models of these innovative companies are pretty amazing. Bird electric scooters is known as one of the fastest growing startups, with a valuation of $2 billion in just a year’s time. However, Lime is a close competitor coming in at $1.1 billion. Not only have they reached extremely high valuations in a year’s time, but their presence is wide spread as they are located in 170 cities worldwide and are present on over 130 college campuses in the U.S.
With undergraduate enrollment at colleges increasing, comes an additional increase in “transportation, parking, and environmental crises”, according to Rachel Bankston, Bird Spokeswoman. “Many [of these] colleges and universities are located in cities and communities with populations of 50,000 or fewer people,” Rachel said, “These communities often do not have robust public transit programs and heavily rely on pollution-emitting cars for short-distance trips on or around campus.”
Bird and Lime electric scooter companies are working to improve these crises by offering their additional transportation services in rapidly-increasing places across the nation.
As some students are beginning to rely on the use of electric scooters more and more, their effectiveness and level of availability has come into question as the winter months approach.
“Bird is extremely committed to the safety of our riders,” Rachel Bankston said. “We take into account the weather conditions of each city where Bird is available and adjust our operations accordingly. While some Birds may fly South during harsher winters, we are working to ruggedize our flock so that Bird is a convenient transportation option for riders year-round.”
While the demand for modes of transportation alternative to cars is large, the increase of scooters in cities around the world proves to be highly effective. However, only time will tell if the electric scooter companies, Bird and Lime, will continue to be resistant to the increase in criticism and controversy as well as rules and regulations that are being heightened everywhere.