WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.-- More e-scooters are headed to Purdue University, but why they're there could help steer how scooters are used at the school and beyond campus as the alternative mode of transportation pops up in more locations.
'Jelly' is the name of the latest scooter addition, part of a campus-wide research project. A university spokesperson says it's part of a subsidiary of Ford, Ford Smart Mobility, which is working with Purdue civil engineers on the project. The goal is to study how riders are using scooters and is believed to be the first academic research study of its kind.
"Basically we want to look at usage statistics for the scooters. How they're being used, where they're being used, but also and kind of more my cup of tea is the operational challenges, so that hopefully we can come up with some good solutions to implement these both here and in other cities, universities, etcetera in a more collaborative and safe and enjoyable way," Aaron Madrid, the university's alternative transportation coordinator, said.
40 scooters will be distributed across campus for the initial four week portion. They can be used through a downloadable app for Apple iOS. The scooters will be collected and data downloaded nightly. Madrid said they'll look at things like parking habits, user habits, trip data, directions and how users are getting to their destination as far as infrastructure used. The project is led by Darcy Bullock, Purdue's Lyles Family Professor of Civil Engineering and director of the Joint Transportation Research Program.
"So my hope would be that we would use that data to be able to come up with some informed suggestions, decisions to both try out here and maybe for other people across the country to try out as well so we can all get the benefits of the scooters without the chaos that tends to come along with it," Madrid said.
That's seen in other locations. Indiana University started impounding scooters parked illegally there. Indianapolis EMS reports 40 scooter related transports since Sept. 4th, with 18 of those so far in October. Lawsuits have been filed in other states.
Bird scooters already launched at Purdue University. The campus requires riders follow the same regulations as bike riders.
"I mean the good things everybody loves them, they are very useful, whether it's Bird launching without permission or anybody else that we're working with, I think that scooters certainly have a place," Madrid said. "On the downside I would say that the lack of communication and the lack of I guess willingness on the part of Bird to work with us to kind of address some of the issues like education, safety, parking locations, things like that, have created the standard chaos that you've read about, seen, heard about across the nation."
Bird said in part:
"Bird is committed to partnering with cities to ensure that the community, and its visitors, safely embrace our affordable, environmentally friendly transportation option. We strive to improve and enhance the well-being of our riders and communities through concrete action, including: restricting the maximum speed of the vehicles, requiring riders to upload a driver’s license and confirm they are 18 or older, providing an in-app tutorial on how to ride a Bird and how to park it, and posting clear safety instructions on each Bird. Additionally, Bird recently formed the Global Safety Advisory Board, which will create, advise, and implement global programs, campaigns, and products to improve the safety of those riding Birds and other e-scooters."
But with Jelly, researchers hope there will be more insight into what works and what doesn't regarding e-scooters.
"We're all I think trending towards more bike and pedestrian friendly environments and scooters can be a part of that, so yeah my hope would definitely be that this study will provide some usable input for some other folks to use so that we can all share the benefit of the scooters," Madrid said.
The Jelly scooters are expected to launch in the coming weeks.