Starting this month, the University of Maryland will require all micromobility users to register their vehicles with the Department of Transportation Services.
The effort has raised questions among some community members about micromobility policies on and around campus.
DOTS is requiring all privately-owned micromobility vehicles to be registered this semester to provide a record of ownership and support the university’s efforts to manage micromobility on campus.
DOTS will impound and boot vehicles that are unregistered, abandoned or parked improperly.
Student Government Association director of transportation and infrastructure Paisley Brockmeyer said the mandatory vehicle registration is coming at a crucial time.
“With the major influx of micromobility on campus … there are just more people on the roads,” Brockmeyer said. “Oftentimes, I’ll be riding to class on my bike and there will be more bikes than cars.”
Some student advocates think registration is for the best, but are frustrated by the university’s failure to address persistent complaints about micromoblity infrastructure on campus.
The university does not allow residents to bring their scooters inside dorms, but some students said this creates challenges for charging. Students worry about their chargers being unplugged or stolen while charging outside.
Upon recommendation from this university’s fire marshal’s office, electric micromobility vehicles are not allowed in dorms, according to a statement from the university. A university spokesperson said many batteries used to power e-scooters and e-bikes are a potential fire hazard.
In BikeUMD’s most recent bulletin, DOTS instructed students to store their scooters in a “cool, dry place away from direct sunlight,” and to keep batteries in temperatures from 32 to 86 degrees. The bulletin also reminded students to keep scooters outside.
The university also expects micromoblity users to stay on roads and permitted paths, but student advocate groups, such as Terps for Bike Lanes, have been vocal about the need for temporary “pop-up” bike lanes to protect micromoblity users from motor vehicles based on traffic.
“The administration has made tremendous strides in the past two years to listen to us,” said Terps for Bike Lanes president Nick Marks. “I’m not completely opposed to the registration policies. I’m just opposed to the fact that they’re not providing more temporary infrastructure for cyclists and permanent infrastructure for e-scooters.”
Junior accounting major Max Bagster-Collins bikes from an off-campus residence to his classes every day.
“I understand the concept. I’ve heard that people are getting their bikes taken, which is crazy to me,” Bagster-Collins said. “I think [registration] should be voluntary.”
As of last week, more than 1700 vehicles have been registered.
“DOTS, Facilities Management, Resident Life, and the Office of the Fire Marshal are actively engaged in evaluating options and strategies that may be implemented for the safe storage and charging of micromobility vehicles,” a university spokesperson told the Diamondback.
Ian Gould, SGA’s South Campus Commons representative, said infrastructure is the source of many problems that micromobility users face.
“One thing I’m noticing is that because people don’t have enough bike racks, they’re parking their bikes all over,” Gould said. “That is an accessibility risk, and it’s not good for pedestrians.”
With the recent surge in micromobility, some bike racks are filling during peak hours, the university spokesperson added. As a representative, Gould said transportation issues are split between three stakeholders: motorists, micromobility riders and pedestrians. Out of the three, Gould believes micromobility users are least recognized by the university.
The university’s SGA created an incident report form for accidents last semester. The online form asks when and where an accident happened, the method of transportation involved and estimated speed.The purpose of the form is to identify where on-campus accidents are happening systemically.
“I was very concerned with the safety of students and knowing where [accidents were] happening,” Brockmeyer said. “I was like, let’s get some data collection going. So we ended up creating this form.”
The SGA form has received about 70 responses since it was created, with most accidents concentrated around Regents Drive Garage and Cole Field House, according to Brockmeyer.
Brockmeyer said SGA is willing to share the data collected through the form with DOTS, but apart from promotion on social media last semester, the association did not widely advertise the form.
With micromobility registration, vehicle owners can be identified when accidents happen, according to David Allen, DOTS’ executive director.
However, tracking and enforcing micromobility moving violations is exclusively the responsibility of the University of Maryland Police Department. UMPD keeps records of reported accidents, but it’s up to the person involved to report the incident, according to UMPD spokesperson Lt. Rosanne Hoaas.