What’s the deal with those electric scooters on campus?

Meara Isenberg

Students now have two dockless electric scooter companies to choose from in the University area. Both Bird and LimeBike electric scooter companies have landed in Austin, including areas around the Drag.

Bird was the first to arrive, flying into Austin on April 6 and expanding to the University area soon after. On Monday morning, LimeBike scooters appeared in West Campus as well.

“There’s some trips that are too short to drive but too far to walk,” Bird spokesperson Rachel Katz said. “Bird helps people conveniently find a way to get where they need to go.”

The scooters are stationless vehicles, which are left at a user’s destination and instantly ready to be picked up by someone else. Both bike brands travel up to about 15 miles per hour, and can be located and unlocked through the company’s app.

The arrival of scooters in Austin comes as the city engages in conversations about bringing in dockless vehicles. In a statement, the city said any scooters left within the City’s right of way, which includes streets and sidewalks owned by the city, for more than 48 hours without the city’s permission can be impounded while the city figures out how best to bring the bikes and scooters in.

Neither Bird nor LimeBike’s vehicles, however, remain on the streets for 48 hours. Katz said to keep the streets clear from clutter, Bird scooters are picked up at 8 p.m. each evening, taken in for charging and maintenance and returned at 7 a.m. each morning to “nests” — designated businesses that house the Birds.

“An important thing about Bird is that they are only available during the day,” Katz said.

LimeBike’s scooters are also picked up and recharged each night, and, like Bird, LimeBike informs users through its app to not to block public pathways when parking the scooters.

“We’re trying to educate riders about the importance of where to park vehicles so they aren’t parking in the right of way.”

Transportation professor Randy Machemehl said it’s too early to tell if having two scooter companies on campus will cause clutter, but that it’s important to be mindful of how users park the scooters.

“I’m not concerned about clutter at the moment,” Machemehl said. “I’m hopeful that everyone will mind their manners and park them in appropriate places.”

Design sophomore Adraint Bereal rode a Bird scooter from West Campus to his 11 a.m. art class on Friday and said he knew to park the scooter near a bike rack because the app told him to. Bereal said he liked the scooter not only for its convenience but also for its price — both scooter brands are $1 to start and 15 cents per minute after.

“From my apartment over here it was $2.35,” Bereal said. “For instance, me taking a Ride Austin or an Uber, that’s $7 to get over here. It’s much cheaper.”

Law student Teddy Garber said he has seen the scooters being ridden on campus but does not have an interest in riding one over his own bike.

“I think that the benefit (of a scooter) is for if you need something every once and a while,” Garber said. “If you need something every day, I think a bike is the best way to go.”