Column: While Bird scooters may be odd, they’re affordable public transit done right
While Bird scooters may be odd, they’re affordable public transit done right
Dec. 03, 2018
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
Corey Davidson is a junior journalism major at MU. He is an opinion columnist who writes about student life and politics for The Maneater.
I cannot wait to sit down with my grandkids many years from now and tell them about the day a day that started like any other day, but would change the very landscape of my college campus. The day that was otherwise peaceful, until the invasion of the Bird scooters started.
At first, it seemed like some sort of hipster fad. It must have been the last week of August when I first noticed the insurgence of these electric scooters. Like many, my first reaction was one of awe and confusion. However, I would argue that despite their supposed risks, Bird scooters aren’t all that bad.
If you live under a rock, Bird is a relatively new company that provides electric scooter renting. By way of an app, one can walk up to a locked scooter and activate it for use. The cost is $1 initially and 15 cents per minute of travel. This pay-as-you-go business model seems genius, especially on a college campus.
In Columbia, there are roughly 450 Bird scooters, according to the Columbia Missourian. Their widespread availability and ease of access make them a great product for college students. While being a useful way to travel, they are also a very easy trend to hop onto.
Couple this with the fact that Birds also are providing a quick way to make some extra cash through their charging program, you have an unstoppable fad that’s easy to latch on.
I compare the Bird scooters’ cultural appeal to the Silly Bandz a few years ago. Anybody who was anybody had to have a Silly Band, as they were a telling sign of your social status. Birds serve a similar purpose: squadding up and riding around for a while becomes an event. Feel free to even post a Boomerang on your Instagram story, because they are incredibly trendy.
With every emerging trend, though, there will be haters. Many citizens have expressed concerns for street safety, as well as figuring out where to park the scooters. For example, should riders be using bike lanes? Are scooters too small and slow for car lanes? An agreement to answer these questions and more was decided on by the Columbia City Council with a 5-1 vote passing a one year contract. However, Bird is already facing potential backlash for poor compliance with their end of the deal.
Beyond legal concerns, Birds have been criticized for being uncool and a waste of money. It would be free to take a Tiger Line bus across campus instead of Bird-ing, and it likely be faster. In the interest of free transportation, STRIPES would be much easier and safer than taking a scooter home on Thursday to Saturday nights.
Another concern is that these scooters are just too accessible, especially with Bird’s competitor, Lime, joining the fray in Columbia. With so many scooters available, some people have even taken to “Bird dropping,” wherein scooters are taken and thrown off of bridges or otherwise vandalized for fun.
As long as they don’t cause too much trouble, I think Birds will be sticking around. They accomplish their goal of providing affordable transportation and reducing traffic congestion. I find their mission to be honorable, especially since the scooters are all electric and don’t directly contribute to pollution.
The behavior of Bird users will be the most important factor in how the scooters are viewed. If people continue to drive recklessly in front of cars, travel two or three people per scooter or generally act foolish, we may be seeing sidewalks full of abandoned Birds in a few months.