Besides being fun to zoom around on, dockless electric scooters help students like Cassidy Pena get to class on time. Unable to bike because of her asthma, Pena said she criss-crosses the Forty Acres several times in a single day with her backpack and trumpet in tow.
“It’s the easiest way to get around campus,” said Pena, a music and mechanical engineering sophomore. “I’ve been taking music and then science/math classes since last year, and they’re not close to each other.”
However, riding scooters on campus is not the same as riding them around the rest of Austin. Scooters travel slower in certain areas of campus that are busier and must be parked in designated areas. Any bike rack is a viable scooter parking area, according to UT Parking and Transportation Services, and there are an additional 30 designated scooter parking areas across campus.
“We have to keep our campus organized and clean and safe,” Blanca Gamez, PTS associate director of transportation said. “When we allowed scooters to park wherever they wanted, we were creating these unsafe environments across the campus.”
While there was only a $150 fine for impounds last semester, PTS is now implementing a new two-tiered impound fee system at $75 and $150.
Gamez said parking a scooter outside of a parking zone, such as inside a landscaping area or by a picnic bench, will result in a $75 fine. Parking in areas which endanger pedestrians such as the Speedway Mall, the Main Mall or in front of doorways or access ramps will receive the larger fine of $150.
“An emergency can happen in a split second,” Gamez said. “If people are running out of that building and now there’s an obstacle that’s in their way, that’s something we just can’t risk to keep everybody safe here on the campus.”
Scooters parked outside of bike racks or parking zones can also be hazards for those who are visually impaired, Gamez said.
PTS director Bobby Stone told The Daily Texan in May that PTS impounded more than 700 improperly parked scooters in the spring, but the number of impounds decreased daily since the policy went into effect in January.
Riders may also notice their scooters slow down in certain areas of campus because of a policy which went into effect in March. Inner campus roads such as Speedway, 24th and 21st Streets and areas near the Tower are geofenced to limit scooter speeds to 8 mph.
While many scooter companies, including Lime, encourage their riders to wear helmets, its not a requirement to ride. Lime spokesperson Joe Deshotel said because the scooters have only been around for a year, students do not often carry helmets with them.
“Part of this is going to be on college students because they help create and shape culture,” Deshotel said. “We need to create a new culture of safety and helmet use.”
PTS and scooter companies communicate daily to ensure a safe environment for both riders and pedestrians, Gamez said.
“We do want to keep the users on this campus as safe as possible when they’re riding scooters because often times this will be their first experience with scooters when they come to UT,” Gamez said.