Saturday, December 14

A Difference of Opinion Editors: Looking at the causes of an influx of e-scooter accidents

The emergence and prolonged stay of e-scooters on campus have threatened student safety. The Opinion editors take a look at the different root causes leading to increased accidents. (Daily Bruin file photo)

The emergence and prolonged stay of e-scooters on campus have threatened student safety. The Opinion editors take a look at the different root causes leading to increased accidents. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Recently, UCLA went into agreement with multiple e-scooter companies to allow their scooters on campus, leading to an increase in student accidents. The Opinion editors looked at the root causes in the latest edition of “A Difference of Opinion Editors.”

Ridership problems

Lucy Carroll, Opinion editor

Edgerrin Panaligan, assistant Opinion editor

For UCPD, laying down the law is a necessary evil when scooter users don’t know how to act.

Because they conduct themselves more like worry-free children than the responsible adults they should be.

Since week five of fall quarter, UCPD has increased its enforcement of electric scooter violations in response to complaints from students. Scooter users and bicyclists have been interfering with pedestrian zones and riding at uncontrollable speeds, threatening the safety of students and civilians.

It’s hard to say whether partnering with e-scooter companies was ever a good idea, but now that they’re here in an official university capacity, UCLA needs to take responsibility for them. The increase in unsafe riders on campus and in the Westwood area is a public safety hazard that is no longer an external problem for the university – and UCPD is right to start acting like it.

And public safety hazard is not an exaggeration. A study by Consumer Reports found at least 1,500 e-scooter-related injuries have occurred since 2017. Since early 2018, Business Insider reported there have been at least 11 deaths related to e-scooters.

Sure, compared to car accidents and heart attacks, those numbers are miniscule. But now that the university has some jurisdiction over the electric menaces, it can do something about it. And a ticket sounds a lot better than a fractured tailbone.

To the surprise of many, riding a scooter does not mean acting as both a car and a pedestrian at the same time.

Birds can get you to where you need to be on short notice, but it shouldn’t mean becoming a figurative wrecking ball for surrounding pedestrians harmlessly walking through campus. Students should feel ashamed that the safety issues have gotten to a point where UCPD felt it had to tighten up and enforce stricter policies.

It’s akin to playing too rough on the playground at recess as a child and being told to sit on the bench.

As part of the e-scooter partnership, UCPD and UCLA Transportation have put up traffic signs throughout campus to guide riders. Bird and Lyft have also given safety demonstrations at events like the Enormous Activities Fair. Data on injuries, complaints and accidents are also shared between the e-scooter companies and the university.

This has obviously not worked out so well, and UCPD is right to put its foot down and make lives harder for inconsiderate riders who don’t want to follow the rules of the road.

Of course, incidents and accidents happen and vary on a case-by-case basis, making it hard for UCPD to prevent every single one from happening. But preventative measures need to be taken to reduce that number as much as possible – reckless riders will always come around.

Because the kids can’t behave, someone needs to keep them in check.

Institutional problems

Lena Nguyen, assistant Opinion editor

Birds of a feather flock together – and the ones at UCLA are here to stay.

E-scooters are just the first of many micromobility vehicles that have permeated the streets of Los Angeles and our campus. And despite consistent flaws in its programming and implementation like no-ride zones and sticky brakes, UCLA has welcomed Bird, Lyft and Wheels into a preliminary partnership on campus.

While promo codes for students and more profits for both UCLA and these companies initially seemed like a win-win, UCLA is now punishing students partaking in the deal.

In the last few weeks, UCPD has upped its enforcement of e-scooter violations for safety hazards such as riding through pedestrian zones and sidewalks at dangerous speeds, in a response to an influx of complaints from the community.

But ticketing students for a landscape both UCLA and these scooter companies have built is not the solution UCPD should be after. It only hits students’ pockets where it hurts – all the while, continuing to fail at creating the safety standards they so desperately want.

UCLA’s partnership with these companies needs to expand beyond designated parking spots and cheap deals – and instead, it should be targeting inherent issues within these tools themselves. There’s no shortage of available research or manpower on UCLA’s end to help these companies promote safety awareness and smarter urban planning. And in the long run, viewing its partnership as an opportunity to reform the apps, instead of a way to punish broke college students, will be an outcome all parties can celebrate.

By taking these micromobility companies under its wing, UCLA is now just as responsible for the well-being of students who continue to injure themselves or others. And while both UCPD and UCLA Transportation mandate wearing a helmet, having a valid driver’s license and following designated pathways, complaints and injuries haven’t slowed down.

However, UCLA as a partner to these companies can change the long-standing issues with these vehicles on campus: ineffective slow zones, unclear traffic signs, parking struggles and more. By offering data, layout plans and insight into its own campus, UCLA could help programmers of these apps create safer and more responsible vehicles.

Unsurprisingly, past safety initiatives like a few traffic signs and annual safety demonstrations at the Enormous Activities Fair didn’t cause the ripple of responsible behavior UCLA thought it would.

So surely, UCPD has a responsibility to mitigate those risks and issue citations to offenders. As with any hefty ticket, students might be much less likely to make the same mistake twice.

But tossing out citations like confetti only deals with a symptom of e-scooters’ and bicycles’ flawed infrastructure, and won’t be solving safety concerns at its core.

UCLA shouldn’t be spending more money on UCPD citing students for a problem it created.

Because for every Bird it tries to take down, another dangerous swarm will surely follow.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit
Opinion Editor

Carroll is the Opinion Editor.

Assistant Opinion editor

Panaligan is an Assistant Opinion editor. He was previously an Opinion columnist, and writes about issues regarding higher education and student life.

Assistant Opinion editor

Nguyen is an Assistant Opinion editor of the Daily Bruin. She regularly covers campus politics, homelessness and policing.


Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.