Student Government is pursuing a bike or scooter-sharing program

SG has looked into this initiative in previous years but faced liability concerns.


Eston Parker III

Photo of bikes and scooters parked at a bike stop outside Heritage Park Towers.

Gillian Manning, Editor-in-Chief

This fall, Student Body Vice President Lily MacDonald wants to do something that her predecessors could not: provide bikes or electric scooters for students to borrow on campus.

Starting a scooter program is something Student Government representatives have pursued for at least four years to no avail, and the process has been more complicated than simply placing the vehicles on campus. The primary issue? Liability.

SG is willing to use a portion of its $9.85 million budget to cover the costs, but university officials are concerned that the program could result in a lawsuit.

One barrier stems from the risk management office, headed by Risk Manager Arnie Harrison. A risk manager assesses risks associated with different initiatives and provides guidance to university administration. The UP contacted Harrison but the media relations office said, “The staff said the process has just started and has a way to go before they’ll have enough information to discuss it.”

MacDonald said that Harrison told her the main point of concern for the university is the potential for an injury that results in legal action.

“I think overall, that’s not something that’s going to be extremely prevalent. I already see several students riding around on campus, casually, that buy their own scooters,” MacDonald said. “My view of it is that injuries are always going to happen. If you’re trying to prevent such a beneficial initiative just because of the possibility of injuries, I think that is a little too cautious.”

The University of Florida and the University of Central Florida have scooter borrowing programs on their campuses. The UP reached out to the universities’ student governments and UCF’s transportation coordinator but did not receive a response before publishing.

SG Treasurer Kirk Meyers said the primary goal of the vehicle sharing program is to make the campus more accessible to students without cars, as well as to help the environment by reducing car emissions. As freshman classes continue to grow, MacDonald said that it’s necessary to diminish the need for cars on campus.

MacDonald said the university has expressed concerns over scooter parking and vehicles blocking sidewalks or other pedestrian areas. She explained that e-scooters allow for digital mapping and to address the problem, the university could disallow scooter use past a certain point.

FAU’s Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions advocated for the implementation of a bike or scooter sharing program to help students efficiently travel on campus in its white paper — a type of report meant to analyze certain issues.

The UP acquired email chains from 2019. In those emails, former Student Body President Kevin Buchanan spoke with various scooter companies including Lime, Gotcha, and Bird. The notes from those phone calls express concerns over students renting the scooters while intoxicated after football games.

Lime announced in 2019 that it is looking into adding a type of puzzle to confirm sobriety before an e-scooter can be rented, though the UP was unable to confirm if this has been successfully implemented. SG can also shut down services on game days.

Florida’s hurricane season, which runs from June through November, creates another concern about scooters. However, according to notes from calls between SG leaders and company representatives, all three scooter and bike brands will provide a service that removes vehicles off of campus in the case of a major storm or hurricane.

Meyers said that Harrison is now reaching out to risk management personnel at the University of Florida to discuss their scooter program.

The Money

Emily Lyn graduated from FAU with her master’s degree in community and regional planning in May. Before she left, she gave SG her thesis project, which details how the staff could implement a bike-sharing program on the Boca Raton campus.

After looking at other universities’ scooter programs, she projected that FAU would spend an initial cost of $880,000 for a pilot program with an initial 176 bikes. That cost is not definitive. Meyers hopes to also solicit financial support from the university’s Parking and Transportation Services.

Due to the cost, Meyers said SG will not go forward with the initiative without a vote from the student body.

Gainesville implemented a scooter program at UF, according to their student-run newspaper, the Alligator. FAU could choose electric scooters from three vendors: Bird, Spin, and Veo. Vehicles provided by Spin can be rented for $1 with an additional fee of $0.25 per minute.

Meyers said he will do what he can to ensure FAU students don’t have to pay.

“We would try as hard as possible to not to ensure students do not have to pay. We have the money for it — we believe we’re gonna have the money for it — so it’d be our priority to make sure it’s free for students,” Meyers said.

What would a bike or scooter program look like?

Buchanan, the FAU former student body president, contacted at least three different scooter companies: Bird, Gotcha, and Lime. Each company offered a program that would provide stations around campus where students can park the scooters.

The university would be able to use digital mapping to create designated areas for the vehicles- SG has not definitively decided whether the program would provide scooters or bikes. Through digital mapping, staff could identify pedestrian-heavy or otherwise unsafe areas and prevent the vehicles from traveling in those spaces on campus.

If Student Government and university administration finalize this program, they will open it first on the Boca Raton campus. Meyers said he would then like to see it expanded to the surrounding Boca Raton area, as well as other university campuses like Davie and Jupiter.

Why doesn’t FAU already have a scooter program?

Lyn’s research in 2021 found that 84% of respondents would be willing to try a bike share program on campus. Other universities have already implemented scooter-sharing programs on their campuses.

“Typically the administrator side of the university, when they see that other schools are doing it and it’s successful, then they’re more willing to imitate those programs because it’s kind of a race,” MacDonald said. “We’re trying to become the best university in Florida and I think in order to do that, we need to provide all the great things that all the other universities have to offer.”

While liability was a major obstacle that SG has faced in getting the program approved, Meyers said SG members’ lack of communication and persistence was another.

“It’s not been a priority of SG leaders to try that hard in the past. It’s sad to see,” Meyers said. “That was a big reason to pass, we just didn’t have people who would treat [the program] as a priority — even though a lot of students requested it.”

Emails show that Buchanan, student body president in 2019, pursued the initiative with his vice president, Celine Persaud — who later became the student body president in 2020. Neither responded to requests for comment.

“As a younger Student Government member, I generally yielded to other senior members who would reach out to [risk management]. The communication from those Student Government members, who are long graduated, it wasn’t as good,” Meyers said.

He is pleased with MacDonald and the initiative she’s shown while pursuing this program.

As Meyers’ graduation date approaches, he feels the pressure to set Student Government up for success in implementing a scooter or bike-sharing program.

“This is something that would help a lot of different things — environmentally, socially, and building a community that’s stronger. It’s just something that I have no interest in leaving Student Government without actually having tried my best to try to push it,” Meyers said. “I’m failing my job as a senior-level member if I’m not providing [them] the tools to get this down in six to eight months.”

Editor’s Note: This story is a part of our October/November issue titled “On Campus and Awaiting Trial,” which you can pick up on campus or read online here.

Gillian Manning is the editor-in-chief at the University Press. To contact her about this or other stories, you can email her at [email protected] or through Instagram @gillianmanning_.