WT’s Bird Scooter rollout exceeds safety expectations

In 2020, Consumer Reports found that commercial e-scooters were just as risky as riding a bicycle without a helmet. Almost eight months ago, Canyon and West Texas A&M University partnered with Bird to bring e-scooters to Canyon. Yet campus police report zero incidents or accidents caused by e-scooters.

According to the WT campus police department, Bird scooters have not just been safe. They have been a complete positive for WT students’ lives. “I think it’s helped our students a lot on campus. You know parking has always been a challenge just because we’re so large our parking spaces are limited,” said Sgt. Justin McBride of the University Police Department. “I think giving them the option of being able to get around with the Bird scooters, takes that weight off of ‘do I have to leave my residence hall by this time so I can get a parking spot by this building before my class starts?’”

Some students have reported accidents but operator error was usually a factor in the situations those students described.

“One of my friends was riding on the scooter on the street, and partially this is her fault. She had her cell phone with her and she was face timing her mom and so I guess while she was riding on the scooter there was a little crack on the road or something and that literally made her fly off the scooter,” said Filiberto Avila, a WT student.

The City of Canyon and Bird have programmed the e-scooters to shut down if an operator attempts to enter a high-traffic part of town, such as Canyon Square. This is being done to ensure community safety and safety for e-scooter operators.

“We thought the scooters down on the square would not be highly visible. And the way that cars park in that angle, parking with people backing up. We just knew that wasn’t a good location for them. So we’ve, we’ve geo-fenced the Square,” said Jon Behrens, Assistant City Manager to the City of Canyon.

Besides this policy and existing road laws, the City of Canyon has no current plans to add any additional regulations for Bird e-scooters. “Bicycles? No one wore helmets forever. That’s a relatively new thing,” Behrens said. “Bird does suggest, I believe, that when you log on, you wear a helmet. So that’s a personal choice issue.”

WT’s University Police Department recommends students follow all traffic laws when riding e-scooters. WT has avoided some of the injury issues that have plagued other areas where e-scooters operate, but continuing to do so requires responsibility.

“So, by far and away we always want to be sure that our students that are using the Bird scooters are staying aware. They do have to abide by all traffic laws, rules and regulations. Both the state laws and our local campus laws as well. So I just want to remind them, you know, take your time, be vigilant.”