Scooters

A VeoRide electric scooter lies across a sidewalk in front of Kimpel Hall. Although the introduction of scooters to campus two years ago has benefited many commuters, improper riding and parking can impact people with disabilities who struggle to navigate campus safely.

In November 2019, two vendors brought rentable electric scooters to the UofA and Fayetteville as a whole. Since then, scooters on campus and across the nation have increasingly come to be viewed as a liability rather than an asset.

From Aug. 23 to Oct. 24, 2021, Spin, one of the licensed campus vendors, issued 1,594 “etiquette warnings” to scooter drivers who violated company or university policies while riding, 67 of which resulted in a strike and a $10 fine, according to data published in UA Newswire. That averages to about 26 violations and one strike issued each day.

UA policy prohibits several actions while operating scooters, including texting while driving and driving on any sidewalk directly beside a building. While there is a rule in place prohibiting riders from parking scooters in front of accessibility ramps, this rule is continuously broken, making a campus that is already often inaccessible more of a maze for people with disabilities to navigate.

UA Office for Sustainability staff members, campus safety officials, UA Police Department officers and Spin representatives meet frequently to discuss current and potential solutions to the problems presented by the presence of scooters on campus, according to Newswire. These include geofencing — virtual enclosures around certain areas that block or limit scooter access inside — special planning for campus events and technology updates for scooters. While those solutions have the potential to alleviate some problems with scooter traffic, more can be done to prevent violations.

One potential solution is to mandate scooter safety classes with comprehensive certification exams in order for users to access the scooters. While Spin already requires users who receive a strike to take a safety course, that only happens after the infraction, so there is room to be more proactive when it comes to safety training.

Another solution would be to physically mark restricted zones for scooter travel. Students in a hurry to class might be less likely to pay attention to where they have parked their scooters or what areas they have driven them through if all indications of restrictions are online, several clicks away. However, physical signs are clear and immediately visible and do not leave room for excuses if a driver misuses a scooter.

One final solution is to develop and refine the geofencing on campus. It is irresponsible to prohibit drivers from using sidewalks that directly abut buildings while also doing nothing to prevent the scooters from operating on those sidewalks. Polygon mapping, the method used by Spin to create zones on campus, is one of the most accurate and effective styles of geofencing, allowing for the precision needed to cordon off areas that scooter riders should not access. That solution also would give UA officials a chance to implement their “forced parking model,” a program meant to reduce scooter clutter and improper parking, according to Newswire.

However UA officials adapt to the problems posed by scooters on campus, the fact remains that they have a responsibility to ensure safety and accessibility for every student on campus. For students who live far from their classes, electric scooters can provide opportunities to more easily traverse campus. Officials must make sure that one aspect of campus accessibility does not take priority over others, and that the UofA is an equitable, navigable space for all its students.

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