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.”