AUSTIN, Texas — Several months after dockless scooters found their way onto Austin's streets, the University of Texas is implementing new rules that their students must now navigate.
The dockless scooters are all over campus -- on sidewalks and even behind mopeds.
“Sometimes I'm trying to get to class on time and there's a scooter in the middle of the road,” said Sarah Fung, a student.
That's all part of the problem.
In an email sent to students and staff at UT Austin, the school said it will start impounding scooters improperly parked along campus malls and those that are "blocking sidewalks, impeding pedestrian accessibility or strewn in courtyards, doorways and stairwells," the email said.
The email said the charge to companies for impounded scooters is $150, and, "as a result, scooter companies may pass these fees along to responsible riders."
Some students are shocked the companies could pass that fine to them.
"I think that's an awful idea as a student," said Zaid Imam. "We're drowned in loans and debt."
The school also outlined new dockless scooter rules coming in the spring 2019 semester:
- Requiring that all scooters will be governed to operate at no more than 8 mph on campus.
- Parking zones will be marked specifically for scooters in 10 areas across campus (as a pilot project; additional scooter parking zones may be determined at a later date).
- Parking and Transportation Services and UTPD will begin developing additional ticketing procedures for scooter safety enforcement.
- Prohibiting faculty and staff from work-related use of commercial scooters.
"We will continue to promote and encourage these safety guidelines to ensure our campus has clear paths of travel that are easily accessible and safe for all students, faculty, staff and visitors," UT said.
Until the university decides on the 10 scooter parking spots, it said the students should park them at bike racks.
"To have to go to a bike rack, that's too much effort," said Imam. "It makes me not really want to use them as much."
"Most of my classes are right here and if the parking zone is all the way over there, what's the point of taking a Lime anyway," said Brayden Booker.
But for those who choose to walk, this is something they've been waiting to hear.
"I think I just liked the fact that now there's going to be a concentrated area where the scooters should actually go, instead of in walkways and places you're supposed to drive," said Fung.
We reached out to a few of the scooter companies on campus. Here's how they responded:
"Rider education comes first and foremost for both parking and safety," said a spokesperson for Lime. "We are exploring fining associated with improper parking to further encourage responsible parking. While this is not our first course of action, we plan to be able to use warnings and fines to develop better scooter behavior which we believe will have lasting positive effects on the communities where we operate. Lime firmly believes that all of our communities’ roads must be respected by all parties, including our own riders. Therefore, in order to further encourage more responsible rider behavior, Lime is exploring fining individuals who improperly park our scooters. Such a course of action would be done only as a last resort but reflects Lime’s commitment to having a positive impact in all the communities where we have a presence."
"We’re always working with UT Parking and Transportation Services to create the best experience for riders and the university, including actively relocating scooters if they are found parked on campus," a spokesperson for Lyft said. "In the event that there is a fine due to an improperly parked scooter, the fine will not be passed onto the rider. Lyft encourages proper scooter etiquette and will continue to educate its riders."
“Bird is committed to teaming with the University of Texas at Austin so that the community responsibly embraces our affordable, environmentally friendly transportation option," a spokesperson for Bird said. "We want to work together to make sure our scooters are not disruptive to local communities, including college campuses. Bird has taken concrete steps to educate riders on how to safely ride and park a Bird, including providing an in-app tutorial and requiring riders to take a photo whenever they park their Bird at the end of a ride. If scooters are impounded on campus, Bird will work with University officials to investigate each incident and take necessary action. We look forward to continuing our work with the University to evolve our service on campus."