By Abby Vance and Kennedy Pope
With a growing demand for carless transportation options on crowded college campuses, dockless electric scooter companies like Bird and Lime are vying for more buy-in from universities. Founded last year in California, Bird and Lime are now partnered with 47 universities across the United States.
Mike Harris, Director of Parking and Transportation at Ole Miss, said that he has been researching the potential benefits of using electric scooters on campus for nearly eight months now.
“They wouldn’t come to campus until they’ve gone through the proper channels,” Harris said. “There’s a process it needs to go through before we say ‘Let’s do this.’”
Harris also stated that although there are many benefits from Lime and Bird, there are also concerns.
“To me, ADA is at the forefront of my thought pattern,” Harris said, “because the last thing I want is for a scooter to be blocking the sidewalk for ADA students.”
Located roughly 80 miles north of Oxford, the University of Memphis partnered with Bird in August of this year. The University was the first university in the country to partner with the company. The Daily News in Memphis stated that for them, it is all about student success.
“Bird is another affordable transportation option for students to get to campus and back to the community they call home,” stated Ted Townsend of the University of Memphis.
Similar to the riding companies Lyft and Uber, Lime and Bird are app-based services that can range from $3 to $20 via the app. The former executive of Lyft and Uber Travis VanderZanden founded the dockless scooter company Bird. Since then, Bird has launched in over 50 cities and partnered with 20 schools throughout the United States.
Expected to be the fastest growing companies to reach the valuation of one billion dollars, they are potentially detrimental effects that can come when riding these electric scooters. Within the past two months, there have been multiple injuries, including two deaths, related to riding the electric scooters.
In an article from The Washington Post regarding a death from a Lime user, the victim “was dragged about 20 yards, according to a witness,” and was pinned under the SUV he collided with. The Post stated that “a shoe and a pair of headphones were left in the roadway. Firefighters had to extricate the man from underneath the SUV.”
Ole Miss broadcast journalism student DeAndria Turner thinks that these scooters could be beneficial to the University, but she is also concerned if they will decrease physical activity among college students.
“I think they’re innovative, especially for people who don’t wanna walk,” Turner said. “I would like to see statistics on the health rate to see if it makes people more obese or more active.”
Heather Gilley, a resident of Oxford, believes that introducing Lime or Bird to Oxford could yield great results in both the University and the community as a whole.
“As far as you have to drive across campus, I think hopping on one of the scooters would be awesome,” Gilley said.
Travis VanderZanden, CEO and founder of Bird is hopeful that this form of transportation will eliminate the gap of students seeking transportation so that they can focus on what they are on campus for, and that’s education.
As for the University of Mississippi, Mike Harris believes that conversations need to start among different organizations and committees across campus if this is something we want to do.
“A lot of conversations must be vetted to make the decision of whether we do it or don’t do it,” Harris said.