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Letter to the editor: Blame fowl behavior for bird-brained scooter roosting, not company

By Jonathan Rogers

Feb. 27, 2018 11:23 p.m.

Bird scooters have descended on our campus, much to the delight of harried students and thrill-seekers. Yet the members of the Daily Bruin’s Opinion staff seem intent on continuously objecting to this great boon to humanity.

There was a period in recent history when I, like many students, had to trudge up and down the hills of UCLA and Westwood like some hapless Sherpa. No more. Thanks to Bird scooters, I now fly down the street as though I’m living in an episode of “The Jetsons” – with a smile so big it should be illegal.

Opinion columnist Omar Said’s objections regarding the advent of the electric rental scooter are easily countered, as are similar objections lodged by other opponents of this wonderful innovation, such as the city government of Santa Monica. These objections include the fact that the scooters can be parked virtually anywhere, enabling riders to break traffic rules and ignore pedestrian safety.

To put it succinctly, almost every complaint against Bird scooters also applies to bicycles, vehicles which have not been subject to the same scrutiny as the Birds have.

Let us compare bicycles and Birds. Bird scooters travel at a top speed of 15 miles per hour. Bicycles are capable of traveling at a speed exceeding 15 miles per hour. Bird riders rarely wear helmets. Bicycle riders also frequently refuse to wear helmets. Bird riders ride on the sidewalk when they should be riding on the road. Bicyclists often ride on pedestrian walkways, and sometimes do so even when there is a bicycle pathway nearby – one trip to the boardwalk at Venice Beach proves this.

Bird riders don’t seem to readily obey the rules of the road. Neither do bicyclists. I can’t remember the last time – and I doubt many reading this can either – I’ve seen a bicyclist obey the traffic laws to the letter. Said’s column pointed to a handful of recent accidents by Bird riders to highlight the potential danger of these electric scooters, and yet one wonders how many bicycle accidents have occurred in the same period.

Upon inspection, it seems those most vociferous in their opposition to the Bird scooters are simply those who are generally opposed to change. The same crowd opposed the innovations introduced by Uber and Lyft vis-à-vis traditional taxi companies. Sure, in theory, Bird Rides Inc. itself could do more to enforce proper use of its product, but it is not as though the company is entirely accountable for what riders do while using its services. Those who obtain automobiles from rental companies are often still responsible for any accidents they themselves cause, and the onus of responsibility is not on those companies whose customers decide to not observe basic traffic safety rules.

The same could be said of Bird as a company. It seems as though its detractors are mostly placing blame on the company itself when they should be blaming the few uncourteous users of this great service that many benefit from.

Rogers is a first-year public policy graduate student.

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