Lower speed limits, impoundings in the future for dockless scooters on campus

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Electrical engineering freshman Naziul Jeead unlocks a Lime scooter, parked in a dedicated space in front of Jester, to make it to his class on time. UT’s Parking and Transportation Services have painted parking spaces for electric scooters and are reviewing plans to decrease their speed limits for around 15 mph to 8 mph.

Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar

Getting to class on a dockless electric scooter could soon take almost twice as long due to new policies outlined in a campus-wide email.

Based on recommendations made by a campus work group, an email from Parking and Transportation Services includes new policies such as immediate impoundment for scooters parked along Speedway, in front of pedestrian walkways and blocking wheelchair ramps.

PTS Assistant Director Blanca Gamez said the department will begin impounding improperly parked scooters on Monday. PTS will also be painting 10 new scooter parking boxes around campus, according to the email.

“In the meantime, this is giving (PTS) plenty of time to go back and retouch a lot of those parking boxes that we added in the fall semester,” Gamez said. “Because of the rain, a lot of them have disappeared.”

Gamez said the parking boxes will be similar to the scooter parking area outside of Jester Center near the B-Cycle station. In addition to new parking rules, PTS is working with electric scooter providers to mechanically limit scooter speeds on campus to 8 mph.

“All of (the scooter providers) have the technology to be able to govern their scooters down to 8 mph,” Gamez said. “There are already municipalities as well as universities that have their scooters governed down to that.”

Currently, Lime scooters are limited to 14.8 mph, according to the company’s website. Lyft scooters can speed up to 15 mph, according to their website.

PTS spokesperson Olga Finneran said in an email the recommendations in the campus-wide email are being reviewed by campus leadership. She said there is no set date for a new speed limit to go into effect.

“We intend to work with the commercial scooter operators to ensure that they implement the proper technology that governs speed based on location,” Finneran said. “Moving forward, this will be a condition for accepting permit applications for on-campus commercial scooter operations.”

If a scooter is impounded, PTS will charge the scooter company $150. Whether the fine will be passed down to riders depends on which company was fined.

Sam Sadle, Lime director of government relations and strategic development, said in an email the company is exploring fining associated with improper parking to help develop better scooter behavior. 

A spokesperson for Lyft said in an email the company will not pass down fines if one of their scooters is impounded for improper parking. 

A Bird spokesperson said if scooters are impounded on campus, Bird will work with University officials to investigate each incident and take necessary action.

Biology sophomore Sinyoung Lee tried riding a Lime at 8 mph around Speedway to get an impression of what she initailly thought was a low speed limit.

“Honestly, it’s still a lot faster than walking, and it would get me to my class faster than walking,” Lee said. “I’d say if I was in a hurry, it’s something that I would resort to.”

After trying the same exercise outside Gregory Gym, government freshman Michael Rigsby said 8 mph seemed slow if he was trying to get to class. 

“If I could only go 8 mph, I’d rather walk and not spend the money because it’s not really worth it,” Rigsby said.

 

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