Schwarzpach riding a Bird scooter.

Michael Schwarzpach riding a Bird scooter.

Bird, a Santa Monica, Calif. company, brought new options to UTSA commuters for the Fall 2018 semester in the form of pay-by-the-minute electric rideshare scooters commonly called “Birds.”

Four of the Bird scooters arrived on Aug. 21 for the first day of classes. The company, or people who had signed up to charge scooters, left the first batch of scooters in strategic locations chosen to attract students as they walked to campus.

“You get a kick out of it. It gives you something to look forward to on the way to class,” said junior business major Jonathan Millan.

Ten or more of the Bird scooters were left near campus on Aug. 22 for the second day of classes, foreshadowing the business’ pension for rapid growth. 

Explosive growth has gotten Bird into trouble in the past.  

Bird was ordered to pay it’s hometown of Santa Monica, Calif., $300,000 in fines after a criminal complaint alleged that the company failed to secure the property permits.

The scooter company is now required to maintain an operating license with the city of Santa Monica, and some other cities have followed suit. 

The e-scooters hit the streets of Austin, Texas, on July 2017 followed by a flood of complaints. According to KVUE-ABC, on Aug. 21, a woman using a wheelchair had her pathway blocked on the sidewalk leading to UT Austin’s West Campus. The woman has come across the scooters blocking her path not once but four times in one day.  

Parked Bird scooters

Bird scooters parked on campus.
Ben Shirani/The Paisano

The city of Austin, however, chose not to pursue criminal charges and opted to negotiate a business agreement with the scooter company. This includes a requirement that the company maintain an operating license as well as undergo a review by city officials every six months. Austin is now home to 2,000 Bird scooters.

The San Antonio Express News estimated that in July 2018 there were 150 Bird scooters for use in the San Antonio area.

For the time being, the operation of e-scooters is not regulated by the city of San Antonio, and the scooters have given residents cause for complaint.

“They are flying through crowds. They were going way too fast for where they were. They shouldn’t do it if they’ve got any sense at all.” – local bicycle shop salesmen who asked to remain anonymous. 

Bird is scheduled to begin offering the option for cities to designate areas where the scooters are not permitted.

The company has proactively designated popular walking areas in San Antonio off-limits to their scooters.

However, the majority of UTSA students interviewed view the scooters positively.

“It was super fun. We just rode it around on campus. We’ve seen them downtown at the Pearl and have never had the chance to ride them before, so we tried yesterday, and it was super fun. If they use it properly, it’s a good thing. If they hurt themselves or are not respectful of property, then that’s a problem,” said recent graduate and community health major Olivia Schmelter.

Some students point out that Bird scooters could help alleviate some of the problems associated with parking availability.

“Parking is difficult; you buy a parking pass, then you can’t really find anywhere to park. With Bird, even when you park at the farthest lot, you can hop on one of these and get to class,” Millan said.

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