Bird E-Scooters Alight in Oxford, But Wings are Clipped

Miami student Clare DiCuccio, wearing a free helmet, tries out a Bird scooter last Saturday at High and East Park Streets, uptown. <em>Photo by Clare DiCuccio</em>

Miami student Clare DiCuccio, wearing a free helmet, tries out a Bird scooter last Saturday at High and East Park Streets, uptown. Photo by Clare DiCuccio

By Caroline Roethlisberger

Less than a week after Bird Scooters began operations in Oxford, approximately 20 of the electric scooters, about 20 percent of Bird’s fleet, had been impounded by Miami University Police because they had been left illegally parked on campus.

Capt. Ben Spilman, MUPD’s director of parking and transportation services, said Friday morning that the confiscated scooters have been left on the grass, on sidewalks and around residence halls. Miami’s rules include that the scooters may not be driven on campus, except in designated bicycle lanes on public streets. In all other circumstances they must be walked when on campus grounds and can only be parked in bike racks.

Miami imposes a $35 storage fine for impounded scooters. Bird launched its Oxford operation Sept. 29, with approximately 100 scooters that were placed in “nests,” designated parking areas at the corner of E. High Street and E. Park Place and at High Street and N. Beech Street.

Customers activate and rent the scooters through a smartphone app. That app also includes a list of safety precautions and local restrictions about where the scooters may not be driven. The electric scooters have the support of Oxford City Council and Miami’s Associated Student Government, but the university administration has been against their use, citing safety concerns. The university issued a reminder to students about campus rules on scooter use via its myMiami website, when the scooters arrived in town last Saturday.

Spilman said scooters left around campus “impede grounds staff’s ability to work.” He added that the Bird app allows riders to easily “swipe right on the rules,” meaning that students can easily ride without actually reading the safety and legal regulations regarding scooter use.

MUPD currently is working with Bird to discuss how to educate and improve student cooperation with Miami’s rules. The company offered free helmets during its Sept. 29 launch. In addition to the “nests” on High Street, customers can locate available scooters wherever they are parked, using the Bird app.

On the app, the campus is marked in red, signifying the no-ride zone.

According to the university’s announcement, university employees are prohibited from using the scooters while on university business.

Despite the first week’s confiscations, the popularity of the scooters seems unabated. Riders can frequently be seen throughout the Mile Square area centered around Uptown Park. According to Charles Kennick, a member of ASG and advocate for the scooters, LimeBike, a company that competes with Bird, is expected to bring an additional 150 scooters to Oxford within the next few weeks.