As GOAT e-scooters arrived in Huntsville, so did the “NO E-SCOOTERS” signs near their docking stations.
According to Director of Marketing and Communications Stephanie Knific, the main reason for this ban is concern for student safety.
The ban was outlined in an emailed statement.
“Although some schools in Texas and throughout the country currently allow e-scooters on their campuses, these programs can have fairly significant downsides including the time and effort needed to manage scooters as well as an ever-growing concern over safety, which is the university’s primary concern – safety for those riding scooters and for bystanders who might [b]e hit by them or whose path might be impeded by an abandoned scooter.”
The actual danger of e-scooters is the center of some debate. Studies have yielded varying results, making it difficult to say with certainty whether the scooters pose a sizable risk.
The university’s statement cited a study by the University of California at Los Angeles where they found that two emergency rooms “recorded 249 patients with injuries sustained from electric scooter use in the past year, with 40 percent of those sustaining head injuries.”
Alternatively, another study came to a much different conclusion.
The city of Austin partnered with the CDC to conduct another study. The sample yielded an injury rate of 20 per 100,000 rides. This means that someone who took two scooter trips a day could expect to be injured once every seven years.
While the scooters are banned from campus, they are currently on a test pilot program with the city and are allowed on most city streets. Some students have voiced concern about differentiating between campus-owned and city-owned streets while riding.
“Yes, it is confusing,” Knific said. “It does get a little tricky with certain roads as to who technically owns it, but I think overall it’s worked pretty well.”
The policy was amended in April to ban “Commercially Rented Power Scooters/Bikes” from being ridden, operated or stored.
Prior to this, GOAT co-owner Brad Warner said that the university seemed to be on board with the idea.
“When we first stated this, before we purchased the scooters from the manufacturer, we contacted SHSU,” Warner said. “Initially, they were very open and accepting of the idea in February. In April after we made the investment in these, we received an email stating that they changed their policy to prohibit them on campus.”
According to Warner, the initial reason the scooters were prohibited was because the university was worried about them being stored without a physical mechanism to lock them up. It wasn’t long after Warner suggested a solution to that problem that the university put out the new policy without contacting the Warners again.
The city’s Director of Development Services will put forth an official recommendation to the city council in late December or early January that recommends how to move forward with or without the pilot program.
“I don’t know if [the policy] will be re-evaluated,” Knific said. “We have policy for a bunch of different things including bicycles, things like that. Those are the main issues. We revisited the policy in April and I believe it will stay that way.”