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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Electric scooters are coming to UF

Electric scooters, or e-scooters, are a part of UF and the city of Gaineville’s push for more environmentally friendly transportation options

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With limited parking lots and established decal zones, UF students often struggle to bring their vehicles to campus to attend classes. 

“It’s so hard to find parking for cars on campus; it’s not even worth it to drive to school with a car,” Amanda Feijo, a 21-year-old economics and sustainability major, said.

This summer, however, students will have an alternative method of transportation.

The city of Gainesville plans to introduce electric scooters, or e-scooters, throughout UF and surrounding areas this month. E-scooter companies Bird, Spin and Veo will be allowed to install small fleets of scooters available for rent.

Spin will deploy 200 scooters, which will cost $1 to unlock and $0.25 per minute to ride. They will be available to rent from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. There will be virtually enforced parking areas and operating restrictions for e-scooters on campus.

Feijo said she is excited to see e-scooters around as UF transitions to a more eco-friendly campus.

“You want to use things that are going to be better for the environment, but it’s just not easily accessible,” Feijo said. “Electric cars right now are so expensive, but seeing that UF is making it possible and making it easier for the students to make that change, that’s so awesome.” 

Micromobility — smaller, lightweight vehicles that can operate on the street — are becoming increasingly popular for both eco-friendliness and convenience.

Xilei Zhao, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering, focuses her research on micromobility. She said the positive environmental impacts of e-scooters are notable.

“It’s completely electric. Just one charge of the e-scooters — you really run two to three days,” Zhao said. “So, it’s very environmentally friendly compared to cars, especially for short trips.”

Because they are electrically powered, e-scooters produce zero emissions; the average car emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. 

The transportation sector produces the most greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., around 29% of total emissions in 2019.

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Many UF students turn to mopeds and scooters over cars, creating a “scooter culture” in Gainesville. 

Scooters and mopeds are also marketed as environmentally friendly. While gasoline-powered scooters produce less carbon pollution than cars, they produce more of other pollutants such as carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide. New mopeds can cost anywhere from $600 to $1600. A new scooter can cost upwards of $2,000.

There has been some skepticism around how eco-friendly electric scooters really are. A study from North Carolina State University revealed that traveling by e-scooter results in a higher global warming impact than public transportation, an electric bicycle or simply walking. 

When replacing personal car trips, using an e-scooter results in a net reduction in environmental impacts.

While e-scooters have many advantages, Zhao said curbside management may be difficult.

“Some people are not parking e-scooters properly. They readily park e-scooters on pedestrian lanes. A lot of people are complaining about that aspect,” she said.

Zhao also said safety may be an issue. She said many people don’t wear helmets when using scooters, and she encouraged UF students to stay safe on their rides.

Feijo said electric power is the future, and she hopes many students will replace their cars with e-scooters. 

“You think that one person doing something is not going to make that much of a difference, but if at least some of UF students decide to make the change and stop driving their cars and start using electric scooters, that’s a wave,” she said.

Luke Bybee, an 18-year-old pre-nursing student, owns a Bird scooter, which he says is convenient.

“It’s a lot quicker than walking. Two minutes really beats 15 minutes of walking,” he said. “It’s kind of just to save time and energy.

Contact Eve Thompson at ethompson@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @evealanaa.

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