A flock of 100 Bird scooters landed in Bloomington on Thursday. Now, as students take off across the city and campus, questions about scooter regulations are flying.
While plenty of students have been trying out the new, fast way to get around, IU administration and the IU Student Association have been reviewing safety concerns and questions about scooter parking rules.
“We want to make sure that people use them with safety,” IU spokesperson Chuck Carney said. “They showed up very suddenly, so we don’t really know what impacts there will be yet.”
According to Bird’s website, there is no official partnership between IU and Bird, which was confirmed by Maggie Hopkins, IUSA vice president of administrations.
Hopkins said she met Friday with a Bird employee who flew in from California to coordinate the Thursday launch in Bloomington. She said they discussed implications of having Bird scooters in Bloomington but not partnering with IU.
“Even though the University is not partnered with Bird, that’s not going to stop people from using them on campus, so we need to have safety rules in place,” Hopkins said.
IU policies on bikes and other small vehicles, including hover boards and scooters, explain how people can ride vehicles on campus and where they can be parked, Carney said. One of the rules says parked vehicles cannot block sidewalks, streets or any pathways for pedestrians or vehicles.
“I think one of the main concerns of IU is that we have specific rules for where to park scooters,” Hopkins said. “So we can say, ‘hey that scooter is sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, we’re going to impound it.’”
Safety is also a major concern. Bird’s app says that in order to follow the law, riders must wear a helmet. Although a free bike helmet can be ordered through the Bird app for a shipping fee of $1.99, Hopkins said IUSA may partner with Bird in the future to give out bike helmets on campus.
According to Bird’s website, the company will only increase the number of scooters in a city if each scooter is being used on an average of at least three times a day. Bird is already considering adding scooters to their fleet after they had 700 rides the day the scooters launched, Hopkins said.
Among these riders this weekend was IU student Jeyland Valentin. Valentin said she has used Pace bike share before but prefers the minimal effort Bird scooters require.
“This is like, I can just hop on it and scoot away,” she said.
Bloomington's flock of Birds isn't the first to land in Indiana — a fleet came to Indianapolis in June.
However, Indianapolis suspended Bird’s operations from July 12 to Sept. 4 until the company could meet new regulations, according to the IndyStar. The new rules included a $15,000 fee to operate in the city on top of Bird’s pledge to contribute $1 per scooter per day for transportation infrastructure maintenance and growth.
Bloomington officials were not available for comment about the scooters.