Tuesday, October 15

UCPD begins to enforce traffic rules on Bird scooter riders

University police have begun issuing warnings to students riding Birds without helmets. Officers gave 43 warnings and three citations Friday,
 said UCPD Lt. Kevin Kilgore. (Nathan Smith/Daily Bruin senior staff)

University police have begun issuing warnings to students riding Birds without helmets. Officers gave 43 warnings and three citations Friday, said UCPD Lt. Kevin Kilgore. (Nathan Smith/Daily Bruin senior staff)

This post was updated Feb. 20 at 9:00 p.m.

University police have begun cracking down on students who disobey traffic rules while riding electric scooters.

UCPD officers asked students who were skateboarding, scootering or biking on Bruin Walk on Friday to dismount from their vehicles. As officers pulled students over and issued warnings, a flock of discarded Bird scooters formed next to Bruin Walk. UCPD stopped 46 Bird riders Friday and issued warnings to 43 of them, said Lt. Kevin Kilgore.

Bird Rides, Inc. placed the scooters around UCLA in January. They can be rented through the Bird mobile app at a $1 base charge and an additional $0.15 per minute.

Kilgore said UCPD received complaints about students on Birds almost running into pedestrians. He added officers issued citations to three Bird riders for egregious acts, such as riding against traffic. Although these citations were issued off campus, UCPD can still cite students violating traffic laws while riding the Bird scooters on campus, he said.

Kevin Dodd, one of several UCPD officers who stopped students Friday, said the university does not want students to stop using Birds, but students need to follow safety rules while riding them.

State law requires all riders of motorized scooters, including Birds, to possess a valid driver’s license, wear a helmet and ride on the right side of the roadway, off the sidewalk.

Bird Rides, Inc. lists these requirements both in its app and on the floorboard of every scooter, but Dodd said students have not been following these rules.

“Students are dismissing all the rules and regulations they’re supposed to read before they ride them,” he said.

Dodd said while UCPD officers did give warnings, they primarily wanted to make sure students were aware of all the rules.

“We don’t want to cite,” he said. “We want to get out here and educate.”

UCLA is not the first place where officials have had safety concerns about the scooters’ usage. The Santa Monica Police Department made 281 traffic stops involving Bird scooters between Jan. 1 and Feb. 6 and issued 97 citations, according to The Washington Post.

The company pled no contest Wednesday to a lawsuit filed by the City of Santa Monica for operating without proper business licenses and not heeding the city’s warnings and citations. Under the settlement, Bird Rides, Inc. agreed to pay $300,000 in fines, secure proper business licenses and run a weeklong safety education program on public buses.

The company also launched a campaign offering free helmets to any active users in January in an effort to mitigate safety concerns.

Marcus Reese, a Bird Rides, Inc. spokesperson, said in an email statement students need to adhere to the traffic rules listed on each Bird. He added the company is working with local officials and UCLA administrators to ensure individuals can ride safely in Westwood and on campus.

Some students said they believe UCPD’s increased enforcement was unnecessary.

Nieku Barkhordarian, a third-year computer science student who uses Birds occasionally, said she did not understand why UCPD was stopping students.

“I’ve never heard anybody complain about them,” said Barkhordarian. “I don’t get it.”

Ram Ayyala, a first-year neuroscience student, said he thinks the enforcement of rules is unnecessary because he believes people know how to safely use the scooters.

“People know how to ride (them),” Ayyala said. “I haven’t seen anybody run into anybody, and usually if they’re about to run into somebody, they hurt themselves before they hurt the person in front of them.”

Brian Guan, a second-year chemical engineering student who received a warning Friday for riding a Bird on Bruin Walk without a helmet, said he felt UCPD enforcement made the Birds too inconvenient to keep using.

“It makes me kind of sad because I feel like I’m not gonna use it anymore if I have to wear a helmet,” Guan said. “I don’t want to get stopped by a police blockade if I don’t.”

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Qiao is the 2018-2019 Design director. Qiao was previously a 2017-2018 assistant Design director, and a 2016-2017 Design intern.

Smith is an assistant Online editor. He was previously an Online project manager.

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  • bentley

    I don’t know much about the legal and permitting issues, but all helmet requirements do in this case is damage and possibly destroy a fresh, amazing new mode of transportation that could benefit thousands directly and a whole lot more than that indirectly by reducing congestion.


    • Ryan Groe

      I’ve been nearly hit multiple times. Asking for scooters that do 15+ MPH to stay off the sidewalk and the riders to wear helmets seems pretty reasonable.

      • bentley

        I tried / thought I’d replied, so forgive if a repeat.

        I ride the things all the time and I’ve seen some pretty bad behavior, so I understand where you’re coming from. But there are already laws in place prohibiting bicycles, skateboards and anything with a motor from being operated on a sidewalk, and someone else wearing a helmet isn’t going to stop them from hitting you.

        There are many ways that Birds could be a real boon to transportation and even to society. But there are two main things that make Birds so appealing to the consumer: spontaneity and convenience. Having to carry around a helmet “just in case” means most people who use them now and many potential new users will abandon them. Also, Birds are intended for very short on-off hops, making helmets that much more of a hassle.

        The problem isn’t too few rules, it’s a handful of crappy people. We mustn’t throw out this potentially amazing baby with the bath water but I admit that I don’t know the solution.

        • Ryan Groe

          I totally agree this hugely useful for so many reasons. There are a lot of studies about head injuries under 20 MPH (for example: http://www.chiroweb.com/hg/13/11/13.html). I don’t know there’s anyway around the current helmet laws for minors. Maybe the scooters could be speed-limited by age.

          You’re absolutely right, people aren’t going to carry helmets around. Maybe the Bird could come with a helmet and you supply a hairnet. It’s not perfect but it could satisfy all the current laws.

          Maybe some Birds (paint them bright orange or something) could be restricted to streets with ample bike lanes like Broadway and Main.

          “it’s a handful of crappy people.”
          I think you nailed most of life :)

          Nice chatting with you, bentley. Take care :)

        • Steve

          Actually, bikes and skateboards can be ridden on the sidewalks in the city of LA as long as you’re being safe. (Technically, as long as you’re not riding “in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property”.) I believe Birds can’t go on sidewalks specifically because of the motor.

  • Lolwut

    One thing that bugs me in all this is the fare structure that Bird uses. Charging by the minute creates an incentive to ride as fast as possible, take shortcuts over sidewalks or through pedestrian spaces, run red lights, and so forth. Metering the fares by the mile might work better, since riders would hopefully be in less of a hurry and more willing to ride safely.

    I also hope that UCPD isn’t just targeting Birds- there’s plenty of bad behavior from cyclists, skateboarders, and other scooter riders that could use some reining in.

  • Pat Jam

    It should be free enterprises…is there one car rental company in westwood…the city wants.regulation or control?. The bike share programs are a fail…this private company found a great solution….now we are gonna make it hard for them…..Impede innovation and real solutions typical LAcity
    These things are part of the USA following the Far east model…..look at the people on the streets in cities in asia….