Picture this: You sleep through your alarm and wake up with 20 minutes to get to class. However, you aren’t frantically getting ready, brushing your teeth and throwing on clothes; instead, you’re moving with coolness and ease. Why? Because you have a Bird scooter. You don’t have to walk to class, you can glide — sweat- and worry-free.
Similar to many other campus phenomena, the popularity of electric scooters seems to have come out of nowhere. But now I see students zipping away on their Birds, both to class and on the weekends. I even witnessed a girl taking a Bird to a Friday happy hour on Route 1. They are simple and easy to use, and college kids love anything convenient. And since the weather hasn’t cooled down, the thought of not being drenched in sweat by the time you get to class is appealing.
Bird scooters are very different than the University of Maryland-sponsored electric scooters, VeoRide. VeoRide costs $1 to unlock, plus a fee of 15 cents per minute. The scooters are also only available for rent from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. — to ensure nothing dangerous goes down at night.
Bird scooters, however, have no nightcap. With a personal monthly rental, you can use them anytime, anywhere. You can rent a Bird day-to-day, but the more popular option is to rent one for a month; a $29.99, one-time payment. You sync the scooter to your phone’s app so only you can use it during the month. Essentially, it’s yours.
At first, I thought Birds were getting so much hype because it was the “cool” new thing to do. But, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Student riders attest that they don’t ride Bird because it is “cool” or “fun,” but primarily because it is convenient. Ben Birnbach, a junior government and politics major, said the electric scooter actually has the opposite effect of looking cool. Birnbach has been using Bird scooters off and on for about a year and recently signed up for the monthly rental program.
“When it’s 90 degrees outside and you’re sweating on your way back from class, and suddenly you feel a gust as someone zooms by you, you might feel some jealousy,” Birnbach said. “For me though, it comes down to laziness.”
The black scooter is a lot cheaper than parking on campus and electric scooters are less of a hassle than bicycles. However, there are some safety concerns around the scooter — San Jose State University banned Bird scooters earlier this year after rising collisions and falls, and other campuses are figuring out how to place restrictions on scooters. Students take Birds on sidewalks and roads, making it difficult to impose typical traffic regulations on them.
The nighttime freedom of Birds is a problem, which is why I suspect the Bird trend might end. Only time will tell if College Park will eventually restrict scooter usage. It is possible to safely drive them and follow traffic rules, but college kids tend to take things to the extreme. Any type of accident could draw attention to the dangers of restrictionless electric scootering.
Victoria Palmaccio, a senior physics major, said it’s dangerous if you go too fast or don’t pay attention, so she remains careful while riding. People are “crazed” about these electric scooters because they’re new and fun, but it’s more than just a trend, Palmaccio argued.
“I don’t ride it because I think it makes me look cool,” Palmaccio said. “I ride it because it’s so convenient and saves time. I’m such a busy person so this made getting to and from places so much easier.”
I have ridden on the back of my friend’s Bird and it was quite a time. Speeding around my fellow students with the wind blowing through my hair was thrilling, but frightening without a helmet — and most riders I’ve seen don’t wear helmets. It will be interesting to see if the electric scooter trend will slowly fade away or end in flames. Nothing is permanent in this crazy time we call college.