No wheels for WU: New policy prohibits motorized scooters, skateboards

| Senior News Editor

Washington University in St. Louis Parking & Transportation Services unveiled a new policy banning the use of electric scooters and other motorized transportation devices on campus earlier this week.

The policy states that electronic scooters, motorized skateboards, hoverboards and similar devices will not be allowed on Danforth campus sidewalks or pathways, including Hoyt Drive and Wrighton Way, unless they can be switched into a manual operation mode. The policy does not affect motorized wheelchairs or other assisted devices.

The aim of the new policy is to improve safety on campus and align with the policies of other universities and cities. For instance, the City of St. Louis forbids electric scooters on sidewalks and requires users to wear a helmet.

According to Vice Chancellor of Operations & Technology Transfer Dedric Carter, the University assembled a task force to understand areas of concern in regards to pedestrians and vehicles on campus.

“We were worried that the scooter population was really growing, and we were seeing more of them come into conflict with pedestrians,” Carter said. “So the group got together, looked at the data and tried to develop a policy that they thought was the most reasonable and implementable to keep people safe on campus.”

Assistant Vice Chancellor for Environmental Health & Safety Bruce Backus led the task force, reviewing data from the Washington University Policy Department (WUPD) and benchmarking with other institutions, to produce the recommendation that electric scooters only be ridden on the periphery of campus and parked at bicycle rack areas.

“We tried to strike a balance between safety for our students and then the understanding that our students will be probably using the e-scooters in their personal time as they go from the campus to around St. Louis,” Backus said.

According to Backus, there were approximately 16 on-campus scooter accidents that resulted in injuries to the rider last year. In comparison, there were about five bicycle-related accidents last year, not all of which resulted in injuries to the rider.

“I think the biggest thing that we’re seeing is that people get on scooters and they’re not wearing helmets. That’s one point I really want to emphasize to all people who are planning on riding scooters. Please wear a helmet — it’s critical if you’re going to be riding a scooter,” Backus said. “The other issues that get into it because of the smaller wheels on scooters. If there are any imperfections in a roadway, those wheels will catch and that will cause students to flip.”

According to Backus, the University has “struck a balance” with the new policy compared to their peers.

“Some institutions have just totally, outright banned their use, others, some of the state institutions, will allow the use of scooters on campus,” Backus said. “We came up with this balance, saying ‘we understand you may want to use a scooter coming to campus, but with the high pedestrian flow through the center of campus, it’s just not safe to ride through the center of campus. So please park them around the periphery and please, again, wear a helmet—certainly stay alert while you’re driving them, don’t wear earbuds listening music, stay very in tune with your environment to protect yourself and protect others.”

In terms of enforcing the new policy, the University will begin with an educational period. Parking & Transportations will place yard signs along the major pathways and publish a couple articles to disseminate the policy change. WUPD will also wait to take enforcement actions.

“This will not solely be WUPD’s responsibility to enforce this. We’re hoping [for] a community engagement, that people see violations [and] they’re reminding students,” WUPD Chief of Police Mark Glenn said. “We’re encouraging our officers when they see—and not just students, but anyone in the area, visitors on scooters—that they try and take that educational approach, that they inform them of the policy and why we have it, as well as provide them some data on expectations going forward.”

“There’s got to be some leniency in the beginning to help people become aware of the policy, but it’s really something that goes into effect right away because the injuries are quite real,” Carter said. “The impact of scooters on these roadways is a concern.”

Both Glenn and Carter stated that the new policy is really concerned with the well-being and safety of the campus community.

“That’s really our main goal of this mobility project that we’re working on, to make sure that people are safe on campus as they walk, bike or use a scooter,” Glenn said.

“The goal here isn’t to say ‘Let’s tamp down everything’, it’s to say ‘Let’s look at everything happening around the country, let’s understand what’s happening here, what [issues] parents have raised and what we’ve seen in the data and say ‘How do we best provide a safe campus as we possibly can’’,” Carter said. “So we’re hopeful that our student population, our faculty and our staff will be very helpful in helping to promote that culture of safety.”

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