As students at the University of Miami prepare for the return of fully in-person classes, they must once again decide whether to suffer the sweaty walk to class, or find a mobile alternative.
“If you ask most students, they would personally rather ride through the wind than come to class sweaty after a mile walk,” said Ethan Kumar, a sophomore biology major who used a Onewheel, a one wheel electric skateboard, to get to class his freshman year.
Some students have questioned the safety of the rapidly-proliferating modern mode of transportation. But with temperatures in Miami often averaging 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, others said that electric, portable vehicles are an essential tool for anyone navigating UM’s 239-acre campus.
“If used responsibly, it really takes the pressure out of commuting between one side of campus and the other. It’s essentially just one less thing to worry about,” Kumar said.
Park and ride e-scooters first appeared on UM’s campus in 2019, with many students quickly adopting them as their primary mode of class-to-class transportation. The number of scooters progressively declined as fleets from Lyft, Bird and other companies were involved in collisions and subject to vandalism.
Anika Yamar, a sophomore biochemistry major and a First Year Fellow, said that personal electric vehicles are only becoming more popular.
“You have freshmen who walk onto campus for the first time and see three out of four students riding an electric scooter,” Yamar said.
First Year Fellows are student volunteers that provide academic and personal support during freshmen’s transition to college.
“It’s inevitable that they go out and buy one, especially if you have classes scattered all over campus,” she said.
Chirag Gowda, a sophomore biology major who uses a Segway Ninebot scooter, which can reach speeds of up to 24 miles per hour, said that there is a good risk of injury for unsuspecting pedestrians navigating UM’s active walkways.
“I usually ride the scooter to pick up groceries or meet someone at a coffee shop, but I don’t think it’s too safe for campus,” said Gowda, who was hit by another scooter rider while walking back from class as a freshman. “Fortunately all I got was a sprained leg, but when there’s so much foot traffic, a small slip up going at high speeds on a scooter or skateboard could really result in a serious accident.”
While the university has strict policies regarding the use of e-scooters, including limiting their use to bike paths and sidewalks, Gowda is not the only UM student injured as a result of a scooter jockey losing control.
“If it’s pitch black outside and there’s someone coming at me that fast, there’s no way the both of us can predict an accident in time,” said Felix Nguyen, a sophomore microbiology major wary of reckless scooterists. “My worst fear is that there will be a lot of accidental injuries, which could be in the university’s best interest to avoid.”
Jack Sleeman, a senior majoring in chemistry, said that he has been hit by electric scooters multiple times, both within and outside of campus.
“I sympathize with people when it gets hot in Miami, but when I’m in crowded areas, now I have to be alert for any scooters coming out of the corner,” Sleeman said.
Sleeman has suffered numerous scooter injuries since the 2019 legalization of e-scooters in Florida. UM’s campus, Sleeman said, is an especially perilous site for pedestrians like him.
“It’s not as big of a problem in Brickell as on campus since it’s less dense, especially over the school year when there’s always hordes of people going somewhere all the time,” he said.
Scooter riders in the state of Florida are not required by law to possess a driver’s license or undergo any training prior to riding. However, those utilizing the two-wheeled vehicles now ubiquitous throughout greater Miami are expected to follow all traffic laws applicable to bikes.
Scooter use is not limited to the undergraduate campus. Medical students at the Miller School of Medicine also expressed concern over potential injuries caused by scooters.
“You could imagine that if someone is going upwards of 30 miles an hour and falls off their scooter, that could be an overnight hospital stay,” Jean Corvington, a second-year medical student, said.
Corvington adds that many of his friends have been injured by either other riders or while riding their own scooter.
“It’s sad to see classmates come into clinical rounds the next day with a new cast in a new part of their body because they collided with a bike or fell off their scooter in the middle of the road,” he said.