University of Missouri students who pass the student center on their way to classes would have had their attention stolen from their phone or coffee on Oct. 25 by an out-of-place spectacle: a large electronic road sign that read, “BIRDS SCOOTERS BIKES MUST OBEY TRAFFIC LAWS.”
This sign was introduced to campus along with a wave of strict enforcement of traffic laws on riders of the popular scooters. Bird users were issued citations by MU Police for violations such as driving the vehicles on sidewalks, failure to stop at stop signs, and not wearing a helmet.
The crackdown is due to not only campus, but city-wide frustration with the newly popularized scooters. The topic was brought to the attention of the Columbia City Council at its public meeting on Oct. 1 by Columbia resident Lillian Davis who told the council about her negative experiences with the scooters.
In a video posted on the City of Columbia website, Davis is seen making the following comments:
“I have a sore arm because I was protecting [my dog] from getting hit by a bird scooter. In my way of thinking, sidewalks are for people to walk on and for people who have to use scooter wheelchairs.”
She went on to tell the council members that she has witnessed multiple riders of Bird scooters crash and hurt both themselves and others.
“Those Bird scooters are not very controlled,” Davis said. “There was one young man that almost had a wreck yesterday, he almost went off the sidewalk and into the street. Bird scooters are bad and are bad for Columbia.”
While some Columbians find the scooters to be aggravating, others are fond of them. Frequent Bird rider and MU student Dillon Reinitz often uses the Bird service to get to class.
“Without Bird, I would not always be able to make it to class on time,” Reinitz said. “Being a college student keeps me busy, and sometimes I find myself having let time slip away from me while working on an assignment for one class and realize I don’t have time to make the walk across campus before my next class starts. But with Bird I can just jump on a scooter and make it there with time leftover. Its saved my life a handful of times.”
Regarding the crackdown on riders on the Mizzou campus, Reinitz agrees riders should follow the rules.
“I think it’s okay that cops are giving out tickets to Bird-ers because if someone is riding wrong, it could be dangerous,” Reinitz said. “I always make sure when I ride I’m being respectful to people on the sidewalks and crosswalks.”
The company is not ignoring the complaints that its scooters are unsafe. Bird has issued multiple updates to its app with the intent of improving safety of both the rider and others. In recent weeks, updates have included features such as proving you are a licensed driver and taking a picture of where you park the scooter to prove that it is in a safe location and not obstructing sidewalks or roadways. Users are now also led through a series of prompts upon opening the app with instructions on how to ride safely, where it is acceptable to park the scooters, and that they must follow all traffic laws while on the vehicle.
Mizzou student Bryan Wang has a neutral stance on the subject.
“I do think some riders are a little crazy and unsafe, I’m honestly surprised someone on a Bird hasn’t been hit by a car,” Wang said. “But I think that that’s the rider’s fault, not the business’. The police enforcing that they [Bird riders] follow traffic laws is a good solution; that way the crazy unsafe people are punished and not the business. It is the people who are being unsafe anyway, not the service itself.”
There are people with strong feelings on both sides of the spectrum when it comes to what should be done about the use of Birds in Columbia. Whether you feel the scooters are an asset to the city or a liability, one can only guess whether Bird will be shot down or continue to fly across the town.