Dockless electric scooters from companies such as Lime, Bird, Jump and Lyft will be limited to 8 mph in campus areas with heavy pedestrian traffic starting Tuesday, according to a campus-wide email sent by Parking and Transportation Services.
Although most scooters can travel up to 15 mph, a campus work group recommended an 8 mph speed limit for dockless electric scooters over winter break. PTS announced the 8 mph speed limit would be coming sometime during the spring semester in an email sent Jan. 22.
The speed limit will be enforced by a virtual geofence using GPS. Once a scooter enters the geofenced area on campus, the device will gradually decelerate down to 8 mph. The new geofenced speed zone is a precautionary measure for the safety of everyone on campus, according to the PTS email.
PTS director Bobby Stone said the department worked with all four scooter companies licensed to operate on campus and arrived at 8 mph as an agreeable speed limit.
“We wanted to make sure that the speed that we use was at the rate which we thought was safe to mix with pedestrians, but we also wanted to make sure that the speed allowed the scooter to continue to operate safely,” Stone said.
While the new speed zones encompass much of campus, including the Speedway Mall, the stretch of San Jacinto which passes by the football stadium will remain at 15 mph. Stone said the department paid special attention to busy streets such as San Jacinto where scooters often mix with cars.
“We’ve got cars parked there,” Stone said. “We’ve got buses parked there, and we weren’t (sure if) operating at 8 mph on (San Jacinto) would be safe.”
Other universities have adopted similar measures. The University of California at Santa Barbara has also adopted an 8 mph speed limit for dockless electric scooters, while St. Edwards University has banned the devices on campus entirely, according to the UT Work Group Recommendation Report.
In January, after PTS first announced the speed limit change, some students tried riding the scooters at 8 mph. Biology sophomore Sinyoung Lee said it was faster than she expected.
“It’s still a lot faster than walking,” Lee said in January. “I’d say if I was in a hurry, it’s something that I would resort to.”
Government freshman Michael Rigsby said the speed seemed low if he were trying to get to class.
“If I could only go 8 mph, I’d rather walk and not spend the money because it’s not really worth it,” Rigsby said. “It wouldn’t really help me get to class much more.”
Stone said he doubts the lower speed limit will cause many students to turn their backs on the devices, especially in areas like Speedway.
“Given the choice of you running down Speedway and going faster than 8 mph ... or getting on a scooter and not having to exert very much energy ... which choice do you think you’re going to make?” Stone said. “It’s going to make (Speedway) a lot safer, especially when that mall is full of people walking around.”