(Update 10/10/18: Richard Rycraw, UC Riverside’s Liability Program Manager, contacted the Highlander with additional information on the campus’s scooter policies, as well as other scooter safety concerns. His additions have been added throughout the article.)
Bird, an electric scooter company based in Santa Monica, has triggered controversy by dumping scooters throughout the city of Riverside. Through its app, Bird allows users to rent their rechargeable scooters for an initial dollar and subsequently at fifteen to twenty cents per minute. However, the presence and usage of the scooters at UC Riverside has been considered a problem by the campus itself.
On Sept. 22, the UCR police department sent out a mass email to students at UCR, stating that the electric scooters stationed around the university cannot be driven on campus grounds. Assistant Chief of Police John Freese stated in an email that this includes “all campus roadways and parking lots.” The relevant policies reason that such vehicles muddle foot traffic and can result in accidents.
Richard Rycraw, UC Riverside’s Liability Program Manager, provided additional information surrounding scooter policies at UCR. “Campus Policy 450-24 dates back to 2010 and prohibits Electronic Motorized Scooters (EMS) anywhere on the UCR campus, citing the need for pedestrian safety on walkways,” Rycraw said in an email. He later pointed out that non-compliant students would be referred to Student Conduct.
Rycraw stated that students must be aware of California’s current scooter regulations and “rider safety considerations” (such as helmets). He later said that “recently, there have been several injuries and deaths reported to electronic scooter users” and emphasized that the injurers carry a personal liability. “Liability follows a person everywhere they go,” Rycraw explained, “and everyone is legally responsible for their negligent or unintentional acts. So as students,” he concluded, “it is important to be aware of all the risks involved so that you can protect yourself form unintended consequences.”
The UCPD held a discussion on these matters on Thursday, Sept. 27. In an email interview, Freese reported that, “We (UCPD) met and discussed this issue … with the campus Executive Management Policy Group (EMPG).” It was determined that since Bird and similar companies are creating new issues concerning scooters, current policies must be “reviewed and updated,” Freese wrote.
Freese also added that “motorized skateboards did not exist” when the relevant policies were established and will be addressed alongside current policy updates.
The policy revisions will be managed by the Communications and Policy Coordination Group (CPCG), with Freese also indicating that “a subcommittee (will) be formed, (sic) to include VCSA (Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs) designee(s) and students” that will review the amended policies by CPCG and provide suggestions as needed. The Highlander will be updated with the development of these revisions as they occur.
UCR’s Director of Transportation Irma Henderson was interviewed by email for more questions surrounding the scooters on campus. She responded that she “contacted (Bird) the same day they started dropping scooters on campus.” Henderson supplied Bird with information on the officials and departments that Bird would need to work with before UCR would allow the scooters on school grounds. The exact day and whether or not Bird followed up with her messages were not released at the time of writing.
Henderson later pointed out that the city of Riverside “is also in the process of determining how they will address scooters,” further stating that neither it nor UCR has decided how to handle the scooters yet. While Bird’s site states that Riverside is a designated area for the scooters, Henderson’s comments suggest that Bird has not gained official permission to station scooters in either UCR or the city.
This is not the first time Bird has been under fire for unauthorized business. In February of this year Bird was fined $300,000 by the city of Santa Monica, its city of origin, for unapproved operation of electric scooters.
Bird’s media department was contacted through email for comment on UCR’s safety concerns. No response has been returned at the time of writing.